I don't know who Hafiz is, but there are bits in this piece that I resonate with. So strongly.
Look, won't you, where it says:
Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.
It takes me back a long time, a good many years. It was autumn of 1993. I had spent the 1992-93 year, my first year at seminary, in a hard place. It was the year my mother's husband was dying. A long, slow death, with many false alarms. During that year also, a lump appeared on my mother's scalp; it was a cancer and it needed removal. Her Alzheimer's made everything all the more difficult. I was learning to be a seminarian, both at the campus and at my mother's house. We buried John the week after final exams, the one-week interlude I had before beginning the stressful period of Clinical Pastoral Education.
My CPE site was an inner-city hospital, a major trauma unit and regional spinal cord center. I was on call every sixth night and every sixth weekend day. I baptized babies who would not last the night. I telephoned families to tell them their sons had been shot. I kept the death watch with countless lonely souls. I struggled with a diverse group of peers, all of us trying to learn by doing, what it meant to be a chaplain, what the ministry of presence really meant.
The unit ended and I had a week or perhaps two before the second year of seminary began. I looked forward to rest, to relaxation, and -- with less enthusiasm -- to learning the Hebrew alphabet in preparation for that year's classes.
It was not to be. My mother's caregiver called me to come. There was a lump. Within a few days there were several lumps. Metastases of the cancer we had dealt with months earlier. A fast-growing cancer, they said. My vacation was spent visiting doctors, making decisions, arranging for hospice, learning a different new vocabulary.
I returned to school and through God's grace got through the month of intense Hebrew study. By the time regular classes began, I was some sort of a walking zombie, a fragile sort of a shell of my real self. I didn't see how I could get through a second year of seminary/death watch combination. I wondered if I should take a year off, reduce my course load, withdraw altogether, or try somehow to get through it all.
I went to see my favorite professor from the year before. I poured it all out to him. He listened. He waited. He provided ministry of presence. Finally, he asked, "What do you want to do?"
I don't know where the answer came from. It had nothing to do with the options I was considering. "I want to make a quilt for my daughter." I hadn't made a quilt in several years. But Sherry was in her last year of high school and in ten more months I would be losing her to an as yet unknown college campus.
"Then do it," he said. "And do it with intentionality."
So I dropped two of my four courses, took Sherry off to the fabric store, and began, through the making of her quilt, to piece myself back together.
Look again at what Hafiz says:
This is the time
For you to compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do