Monday, March 16, 2009

One More and Then I've Got to Stop

So the last story about our old church is, to me, the most painful to tell. As a pastor's wife there are things you expect and accept. I have had to return early from vacations because a church member had died and Hubby had to come back to do the funeral. I have lost entire holidays because Hubby has been sitting in the hospital with a sick congregant. I, myself, have been called on to take people to their chemo sessions or to babysit in an emergency when a family member falls through. As the pastor and family, a lot of times, we are the last line of defense for a family in need. And I accept that willingly and usually humbly. But I do ask that it be reciprocated in my times of need.

Something else you need to know about this church is WHY they didn't like me. There are two reasons. The first was that everyone in the church was related to everyone else. Really. And I was doing my best to make the church grow and bring in "outsiders". The second was that when we first got there, the church shared Hubby with another, smaller, blue-collar church. Up until our arrival, the pastor's wife had always just stayed at the larger church and left the blue-collar church alone. I adored the blue-collar church people and spent a lot of time there. I broke the rules.

So E had just turned 1 year old and Hubby was having a tough go as a part-time pastor, fairly new dad and trying to get through his 2nd year at the Most Expensive Seminary in the World. He was closing in on finals and writing papers all the while fighting off a bad chest cold. About this time one of our congregants was diagnosed with end-stage cancer. The man chose to bow out gracefully and not take chemo or radiation, so the death process went fairly quickly. But Hubby spent about a week trying to balance everything AND spend nights at the hospital. He would come home thinking the man was going to make it through the night but just as he walked in the door, the hospital would call and Hubby would have to go back. This happened for 4 or 5 days and Hubby's chest cold got worse. The man died on Thanksgiving day and Hubby finally made it to the doctor after the funeral. He got some antibiotics and we thought everything was fine.

But everything wasn't fine. About a week after Hubby had finished the antibiotics he woke up one night with horrible chest pains. He thought he was having a heart attack. I called EMS and they arrived and started checking him out. One EMS took me aside and said that although they didn't think he was having a heart attack, something "was showing up" and they were going to take him to the hospital. Did I have someone to watch my baby (who was now wide awake at 2:00 AM)? My family was in the Midwest and his family was 10 hours aways farther south so I had no family nearby. I didn't have any friends. I had Christi, but she lived 45 minutes away, that was too far. I knew people at work, but I didn't have their numbers. I had all these church people who I had forgone friendships for to try to make the church prosper. We had helped them out so many times. Surely someone from church would help us. So I started to call.

I called the first woman I thought of. The widow whom Hubby had sat with so many nights as her husband lay dying. She said no. She told me she just couldn't do it right now. I was stunned. Here I was with my own husband possibly having a heart attack and this woman couldn't even help me?

I called the second woman. She said no because she had to work in the morning. She would just be too tired. What? This is your pastor. I made you a meal when you were sick. I need help. You're too tired?

The third woman told me no because she had to watch her own grand-daughter early in the morning and since I didn't know how long I would be, she just couldn't take the chance. Oh, I'm sorry my husband's heart pain is inconvenient for you!

So there I sat with my baby in my arms, my husband being given morphine and prepared for transport to the hospital for who knows what and I was totally and utterly alone in the world. If he died that night I would have nothing and no one. I was angry and hurt and terrified. How could these people just leave me here? But I had to find someone to take her.

So I made one more call and a very gentle voice answered. By this time I was hysterical and not even sure I made sense but the woman, who later became one of the few allies I had, told me just to bring her over, which I did.

Hubby turned out to be fine. He had pleurisy and was ordered to rest. I, however was, not fine. I have always been a loner, but up until that moment in my life I had never felt alone. And I was made to feel alone by my church, which was even worse.

There are some bright spots to this story. When our home church heard the story (the church where we are now) of Hubby's illness and how the medical bills were overwhelming us, they took up a collection and put it into Hubby's student account that had matching funds. Essentially we received 1,000.00 during a very dark financial time. And I promised myself I would never let myself be so wrapped up in my role as a pastor's wife that I would fail to make friends. Here I have two really close friends and then 3 or 4 friends who I can call anytime and ask for anything. I will never feel that sense of loss or loneliness again.

I have never been able to overcome my anger at that church. It became even worse after Christi died. Christi and I had sat together and been shunned "outsiders" together in church. We worked together to welcome the families with kids and make the church grow (which irritated the old-timers). When Christi died I sat by myself at the funeral. Not one church member offered to sit with me. I sat in the back in case E, who was 3 at the time, got fussy and had to leave. But no one even offered. And they all said how much they loved her. But I knew the truth. And that day kind of sealed my heart against them.

So thus endeth "Tales from the Parsonage." There's a lot more I could tell, but that's the worst of it. And truthfully, I've got to take some time to prepare myself for our move. I can't go in with a negative attitude anticipating the worst. But I will tell you, our move couldn't come a moment too soon. Our church doesn't have the money to pay all of Hubby's paycheck this month. Thanks goodness we're not living from paycheck to paycheck right now. This time last year we were.

And for the people who think I'm not telling the truth...Andie, back me up. You were around when I had the pneumonia, weren't you?


Jeannie said...

I believe it. Every word.

Green said...

What with being jewish and all, this is all very foreign to me. I feel outrage on your behalf when reading these stories, but am not sure if this is how churches are, or what.

If this is just how churches are, perhaps you guys would like to consider crossing over to being a rabbi and running a temple. :)

I am not involved in any religious organizations, but if someone I knew needed their kid watched due to a health crisis, I can't really imagine saying no, unless I truly wasn't able for some huge reason.

Charli-tan said...

Yes, I was "there" from Ohio.
It's all true. I remember.
I also konw for a fact that most people are pretty selfish adn self absorbed, so even if I hadn't been around, I would believe this, no question.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I feel your pain LIMW. It is a shame that so many people take from you, yet can't see beyond their own needs to give back.

/ dw

Bubblewench said...

No doubts from me! I hope you writing these stories all out has helped to purge the evil behind them so you can let it go and move on to a better life.

You are on helluva woman.

jennjy said...

Sad part is that they would be pissed if you or your hubby didnt run to their rescue... Its so selfish and heartbreaking how people can be just plan rude... hugs to you..

I ve been reading your blog for a good long while and just LOVE it ...