Credence Newsletter Articles

May 2022: Sacred Personhood

by | May 12, 2022 | Congregations, Workplaces

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I witnessed something over these past two weeks that feels tender and for which I don’t quite yet have the words. It was something that belongs in the category of wonder and perhaps sacred. On April 19 of this year, I received the news that my father had passed. He had been in a nursing home with dementia for several years. Only a few days before his death, he contracted Covid. It all happened very rapidly. In a heartbeat, I was catapulted into that landscape of grief and farewell. On April 30, my family that is normally scattered across Canada and sometimes the world, gathered in the community of our childhood where my mother still lives to celebrate my dad’s life, to say farewell, and to support our mother in her grief.

My father had had dementia for many years and while he recognized me to the end, over these last years I found it hard to remember the person my dad was before the disease robbed him of his memory and much of his personality. Something curious happened though in the days between my father’s passing and his funeral. Slowly the dementia years faded away. I found old pictures in my mother’s apartment which affirmed for me the bigger story of my father’s life. Pre-dementia memories of my dad began to reappear for me. To my surprise, however, this was not the only shift I experienced. My dad, like the rest of us, had some edges that were not always easy to navigate. He also had many strengths. I noticed that upon my father’s death, none of his edges held any hooks for me anymore. They were unimportant, even hard to grasp. To my surprise, my dad’s strengths also became blurred to me. It is not that I can’t see them, they are simply not what matters. What is left for me was only this: the reality of my father’s personhood. A flicker of being that was (is?) my father, like a flame on a small candle. Raw. Vulnerable. Tender. Sacred. I was moved to compassion and grace.

Some of you will know the “Architecture of Selfhood” material that I teach in some workshops and have written about in the book, The Space Between Us. In the days following my father’s passing, it occurred to me that what I was seeing is what is referenced in the Architecture material. The flicker of being I see is my father’s deeper selfhood – that space where we are not our past nor our future, not our strengths nor our failures, not our ego nor our shame. It is where we simply are. All the markers that make us who we think we are – our jobs, roles and responsibilities, talents and limitations, defenses and sorrows, even our gender – at the place of the deeper self all of these are stripped away. It is said that the deeper self is the location of perfect nothingness which is the beginning of our everything-ness. What I can vouch for, based on this recent experience, is that I saw the person (or perhaps the soul?) behind the man I knew as my father. Fleeting, ephemeral, but real nonetheless. And it was beautiful.

I wonder what it would be like if we could see our colleagues, friends, and family through this lens of sacred personhood more often. How would we be changed? They say that when you are on holy ground you must take off your shoes. If this is true, then in the coming weeks I anticipate walking barefoot more often than I did in the past.


If you are interested in learning more about The Space Between Us, you can purchase it here.

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