Making spice bowls, like this one which holds brown sugar, is fast work. A ball of clay the size of a golf ball and in about 4 seconds it is a small bowl. The redish brown of the brown sugar sets nicely against the blues of the glaze.
This little bowl of sugar was used to make some cocktails with friends. We were making Sazerac:
Ingredients: 1/4 oz Absinthe, One sugar cube, 1 1/2 oz Rye whiskey or Cognac, Three dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Preparation: Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with the absinthe, add crushed ice and set it aside. Stir the remaining ingredients over ice and set it aside. Discard the ice and any excess absinthe from the prepared glass, and strain the drink into the glass. Add the Lemon peel for garnish.
We settled down for a long night. Old friends of 15 years. We spoke of our fears and our hopes. We spoke of our dreams and our losses. They spoke of a dead dog during which I had to fight back tears. I spoke of no taste or smell during which I could see they fought back tears.
Making friendships is slow work. And it requires a pinch of sugar. And containers.
On Sunday, we discussed, as a parish, the departure of two clergy – spiritual friends. We took one minute in the liturgy to stop and really feel the loss – in our gut. We did not argue right and wrong. We did not debate or strategize a quick solution to get us out of our pain. We did not celebrate their life with us – that will happen later. We simply sat for 60 seconds and felt deep, real gratitude. We closed our eyes and saw their faces and enjoyed the encounters we have had with them and over the next weeks we will say goodbye in different ways. But on Sunday we needed to take 60 seconds to be mindful of grief as a community of friends.
We do not do this much in our society. We do not feel grief. We anesthetize it. The second we feel grief we reach for something, anything to speed up our action into not-feeling – rush into shopping, rush into a relationship, rush to turn on the television or surf the net, rush into liturgy, rush into work, rush into an intoxicant, rush into anything that will stop us from actually engaging and feeling our pain.
It is my fervent belief that if we could honestly and intentionally feel our pain when hard things occur, and then discuss that pain with friends, our healing would be faster and deeper. And I wonder about how we use technology and busyness to not-feel our pain. My friends Jeff and Bryan have taught me how to make a Sazerac, yes. But they have also taught me how to spend 9 hours after dinner talking, weeping, laughing, reminiscing, wondering, grieving, hoping, holding hands, apologizing, wishing, dozing, imagining, and reading poetry and our own writings out loud to each other.
I am convinced that I am not the best friend in the world. I have a long way to go in that category; and my friends remind me that I write about it so much because I long for it so much. But that said, I still remain convinced that friendship is what Jesus came here to encourage and that when jesus said “do this in remembrance of me” it was not about liturgy, it was about friendship – messy, intimate, real, congregational friendship. And the problem with friendship is that love develops. And the problem with love is that its price is grief. It is possible to avoid grief by not loving anyone or being loved by anyone. But that is not the life to which Jesus calls us. Not even close.