A Sacrament of Healing

There are rare events that break into busy routines and stop us right in our tracks.

Early in the morning of Thursday, September 9, Ginny Earnest died of cancer. Woman of spirit and of power, builder of community, artist, friend of many, partner of Rob, mother of Anne and Jake, Ginny was the kind of person who makes a deep impact on people's lives. She was 41 years old, and her children were 13 and six.

It was another morning, nine months before, as I was hard at work on a new book and 1,000 miles away from Washington, when the phone call came. Young, healthy, and vibrant, Ginny was diagnosed with an aggressive and lethal cancer; it looked very bad.

Ginny Earnest was a long-time member of Sojourners Community, an old and dear friend, but recently we had been estranged. She and others had left Sojourners three years earlier in one of those splits that seem so painfully endemic to close Christian communities. There were issues, of course, quite real; but the pain and separation always comes in the way that disagreements are handled. We were all still hurting from it when Ginny got sick.

The news stunned my soul. I went out to the ocean for a long walk on the beach. I could almost feel my heart hurt. As I walked, I began to feel a very strange, but clear, almost physical sensation. It was as if all of the anger, hurt, and pain I carried in relationship to Ginny and the community split seemed to fall away--almost like scales from my body dropping harmlessly onto the sand. When the scales fell away from my eyes, all I could see was Ginny's face and how much I still loved her. I began to weep alone on the wind-swept beach, tears that felt like a healing stream.

I wrote to Ginny and Rob that day, and called her soon after. As we talked on the phone, her words and voice conveyed the depth of what was occurring within her. With the painful uncertainty of what lay ahead, this was the time to forgive and to heal.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1993
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