Pastoral Care By the Numbers

I have a lot of friends whose mothers have died of breast cancer.  In my last parish there were about 10 of us.

One of them dropped by my study on a random morning and told me that I looked sad.  “I feel sad,” I said, “And I don’t know why.”

Is this a mom day?” she asked me.  (In other words: “Did anything happen on this date regarding your mother?)  And – actually – it was my mother’s death day.  Mentally I had forgotten but emotionally my body hadn’t.

I don’t love numbers unless they have something to do with relationships.  It helps me to remember certain numbers:

  • I was 32 years and 187 days old on the day my mom died.
  • I was 55 years and 19 days on the day I outlived my mother.
  • In a year and 25 days, I will have spent more time on this earth without my mother than I spent with my mother.*

As a parish pastor, I used to keep a calendar of special relational days for our members:

  • Death Anniversaries
  • Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries for widows
  • Birthdays for those who lost children or parents

I don’t have the capacity to do this for everybody now, but I remember a few.  [Pro Tip for pastors and other compassionate people: contact people on their special days just to check in.  You won’t be reminding them of anything they aren’t already remembering on some level.  All you have to say is, “I’m thinking of you today.”]

When I was a pastor for a single congregation, I used to write newlyweds a note on their first wedding anniversary to check in.  “Thinking of you today. How’s it going?”  [Pro Tip:  this is why we do premarital counseling.  If we have established a relationship with a couple, then they have someone to talk with after the wedding if they need support. This first anniversary note often sparked a phone call to chat about marriage things.]

I remember when HH and I were figuring out what date to get married, I looked at all those summer Saturdays on the calendar and realized that – once we picked our wedding date – that date would never be an ordinary day again.

I remember when I looked over the calendar as a pregnant lady, checking out the day of the week my due date fell upon that I remembered that – no matter what happened on the day my baby was born – it would be a special date forever.

The numbers and dates are important relational tools.  And today, I’m feeling a little sad.  And I know why.

*Yes, I see a therapist.

7 responses to “Pastoral Care By the Numbers

  1. My dad’s death anniversary was Wednesday. It has been thirteen years for him and just over two years after the execution of the man who killed him. I feel the weight of both their deaths every year. It feels like no one remembers except me, although I know it’s not true since the local news always runs the story again. Yet, it is helpful to get that note from my pastor every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Jan. My dad’s death anniversary is Tuesday, August 27. He was 56 when he died 32 years ago. His birthday is October 27 and my parents’ anniversary is November 27. These are days I will always remember and be a little sad. I’m okay with that. I miss him.


  3. I remember the death dates of our yet unborn children every year. I still also remember that no one in the church thought those days were important enough when they happened to extend care to us.


  4. Pingback: People Who Know Things That The Rest of Us Never Want to Know | A Church for Starving Artists

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