Below is a letter from Mollie Mana’o who recently joined the Lake B community with her family. I’m grateful she agreed to write for me this week. Read and enjoy! Thank you Mollie!
Hi Lake B!
I feel honored to get to send you this letter while Lina is on break for a few weeks. My name is Mollie and I, along with my husband Hala and 5 year-old Elias, have been attending Lake B regularly for over a year now. We were occasional visitors and long -term friends for some years and found ourselves here at Lake B after a difficult leaving of our previous church community.
We expected Lake B to be a holding place while we did some healing—and Lina welcomed us to do so—but it became home and our family joined the church this summer. I was often brought to tears during services and one Sunday I realized as I was in service that Lake B—its staff, its people, its conversations, its gatherings—was helping me to fall back in love with Jesus.
In this letter, Lina asked me to introduce myself and speak some about my work. Yes, I am yet another ordained Presbyterian minister in your midst. In fact, Lina actually preached at my ordination! I was ordained to my work as a hospice chaplain 8 years ago and continue to work in hospice. I did my formal chaplain training at Harborview and University of Washington Medical Center, but much of my training occurred in other jobs and on city buses during the commute as people shared their stories with me and invited me into their lives. As I truly believe God has called me to this work, I also believe God has given me the knowledge that I have about hospice and the ability to talk freely about death and dying to serve others in my community. So, that means that I am available to you, however you may need me.
As I’m sure it has been for you, this has been a challenging year for me in so many ways. It has been a year filled with emotions: anger, grief, frustration, joy, and sorrow. My work in particular has been full of all of these and more as we negotiated the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, fearing we could bring Covid-19 to those we cared for, while also being the only visitors many people had as facilities had to lockdown for the safety of their residents. We became the eyes and ears for family on the outside and continue to host zoom calls to connect them. And I continue to do the work I have always done of inviting the telling of life stories, dreaming of heaven, and sitting at bedsides while breath slows. Not only was there grief in work, there was the grief of injustice and racism laid bare and of political polarization and the grief of separation from family and friends, celebrations and long-planned trips cancelled, and relationships ended. During this year, one of the most helpful teachings I came across was on comparative suffering and grief. It helped me to identify that I was feeling guilty about some of the things I was grieving and I was judging others for what they were grieving as I was witness to such huge suffering and loss. But here’s the deal—all loss is loss and deserves to be born witness to. It deserves to be grieved. And when we recognize and acknowledge these losses and grieve them in our own lives, we increase our capacity for empathy for others in their own loss and grief and can sit with them there, without comparing our own.
In the midst of the challenges, there has also been great beauty: increased time together as a family, strengthened relationships in our neighborhood as people care for one another, dance together weekly in the street, and gather at a distance, and getting to know this community through all the zooming.
As we look forward to the change that is coming, as we see the light breaking through, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on what you have learned in this past year, how your vision has been changed regarding yourself and others, and to acknowledge your losses and grieve them, however small they might seem.
I love you Lake B and I look forward to getting to know you all better as the relationships—many begun over zoom—continue to grow as we see each other face to face in the future.