• Mike and Helen

Pace, Space and Grace

This week, Helen’s Aunt Myrtle died. We were expecting her death and are greatly comforted that she no longer suffers the indignities of dementia. But as always, death brings its own realities and finalities. And in this case we have drawn wisdom and comfort from a slightly unusual place – a leadership video!

Just before the news from the nursing home told us that perhaps the end was coming soon, we had watched a small YouTube clip from a leadership specialist - Simon Barrington. He drew a graphic picture of what leadership feels like during the pandemic. He suggested that it is like being thrown from serving quietly on your local tennis court to being pitched on to centre court at Wimbledon and needing to serve an ace!

Organising a funeral during a pandemic feels pretty much like that! We have organised a number of family funerals before and, as everyone rightly says in their welcome messages of condolence, ‘It’s a difficult time’. And whether we are leading, organising funerals or keeping our families on an even keel, the pandemic is throwing up challenges to all of us which we could never have anticipated or prepared for. Simon Barrington offered three rhyming suggestions for leaders which we have come back to and modified for our own use over the last couple of days. They offer wisdom for us all as the clocks go back, dark evenings become long, minds and spirits begin to flag. We are all going to need all the help we can get.

Barrington’s three words are: pace, space and grace. What follows are our modifications!

Pace. So many arrangements and administrative details to settle. Various people’s needs to consider. Waiting times for various decisions. Patience! Clearly, this is a marathon not a sprint. None of us know how long this wave of infections and restrictions will last or what may life may throw up. So pacing ourselves throughout is important. Even to meet everyday demands, we (all?!) need to conserve energy.

Space. We need room to begin to process a mixed bag of memories and the reality that this is the last of a family generation – gone! And apart from physical space to minimise the risk of transmission, we also need to find some personal space. We need to give ourselves and each other some room to be quiet and think. To gather our individual selves.

Grace. Dealing with loss and death and the deprivation that we are all suffering in different ways is an individual business. And we try to give and receive support and comfort and we make mistakes. In this new territory, it is all rather bewildering sometimes. We stumble and falter. We come face to face with our own flaws and those of others. Sometimes it is hardest to live with others’ flaws. At other times with our own. Can we extend grace in both directions? Can we learn to still the accusing and self-accusing voices and not to expect too much of others or ourselves?

Pace, space, grace. They are all values that Auntie Myrtle modelled for us and many others. We shall remember and try to practise them - and be thankful!

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