Mary has been abroad for a week now, with her mother. Today is the first anniversay of the death of John, her father, and it is very appropriate that she is with her mother in Jerusalem, where he died 12 months ago. It is hard to be far away when they are obviously in pain, but this is part of their process of coping with the uncopable.
Meanwhile, back in blighty, the Swifts are living as a single parent family. Mary did it enough times when I used to globe-trot for a living, but it's less usual for me. The rules all change: less stringent requirements on fruit and veg consumption, more flexibility on bedtimes (well, it is the October break), much higher likelihood that things will be forgotten about and have to be fixed later. The PE kit made it on the days it had to, but that's more to do with the children remembering it themselves. But it is hard, carrying the burden of the children & all their lives and activities (and relationships, parties, new wants) without someone to share it.
And the same period has had the first funeral to come in since I came to Scotland, as well as personal crisis for a new friend, not a church goer. Oh - and an old work colleague with a terminal diagnosis looking for a future funeral. Oh - and all the usual business of church, services, planning, (minor) conflict, anxieties.
I have had much discussion with single clergy friends about the pressures of life and ministry and having a partner. That partner can be a safety relief valve, a person who can share the strain. That's maybe a better way of being. But the downside is the pressure that sharing a relationship or a family with ministry brings. A single priest can be a committed (or as detached) as they wish to be - it's just about them, without school parent evenings or parallel careers.
We are called, all of us, to be what God would have us be. And we are called as we are: single, partnered, with or without family, psychologically wired as we are and become. The authentic ministry that we live and do is defined, in part, by this context. And when it all gets too much, and we break - is that when we fail to be authentic, we try and live up to too many other people's expectations?
Oh - and on the subject of sorting all this stuff out did I mention Frankie's new rabbit?