It has been a challenging few weeks, a time when I have been caught between competing professional and emotional obligations – conducting my mother-in-law’s funeral on the one hand, and grieving her death on the other. Funerals should be familiar territory for me. As a Presbyterian minister for over a decade, during which time I also had a period as a Hospice Chaplain, I conducted hundreds of funerals, reflecting and writing extensively on that aspect of my ministry.
Coordinating the funeral arrangements – both practical and pastoral – for my mother-in-law drew me back into a professional space I had left many years before. All in the midst of grieving for someone who had become my second mother, indeed a mother whom I had come to know and love and relate to for longer as an adult than I had my own mother, who had died 25 years earlier. My wife – a nurse – found herself facing a similar tension in the days leading up to her mother’s death. One cannot shake off one’s professional role and obligations any more than one can shake off the emotional ones.