What do you think the Rule says about finding closure when a relationship (of any significant sort) changes or ends? What do you think the rules of closure are in general–its dynamics?
I recall that the Rule speaks of the gradual steps to take towards excommunication–each time offering a chance to be restored to community. But even an excommunication is not permanent the first or second time around (how many times?). The Rule seems acutely conscious of our chipmunking nature, our darting about in uncertainty. And it seems implicitly addressed not just to those who need to mend their ways to stay in relationship to the community, but to all those who cannot comfortably find closure with respect to an alienated member. The Rule almost recognizes–almost to the point of exaggeration–that closure happens at best in stages, and can be filled with reversals and switchbacks.
Closure is easier when there is a clear sense, on all sides, why and that a former mutual commitment must change. Most of us can think of situations in which two or more people can let go more readily–open into change–under these circumstances. Even when the path to such clarity was hardfought and muddled.
I am less familiar with the kind of closure I’ve been asked to embrace this past week–of a relationship with someone that was good and right (indeed, excellent) on its own terms, but was trumped by a commitment that precludes our continuing. No fighting, not discovery of incompatibility, no discerning that we wanted different things–nothing of that sort was involved. What might the Rule say about the dynamics of closure here? Nothing, I suppose, except the rhythm of continuing to pray and to listen. (Can you think of anything else?)
My brief companion has a habit of carefully parsing the meaning of each word, especially those I might have applied to him whose nuance he wanted to nail down precisely. I liked the many-stranded intense flood of conversation this would flush out. But it looks funny in the face of closure–a final email in a little string of final emails, to clarify exactly what one means by an action (or a neglected action), and when that action (or neglect) is appropriate, and when not . . . a long-winded defense of a minor personality trait, as if more conversation could follow, even as good-bye is said again. I suddenly had the image of this human being standing at the gates of heaven, giving an earnest, detailed defense of some particular act or habit in his life, getting all wound up in the process, as if St. Peter, ambassador of Christ, would weigh his soul on the basis of a precise and proper understanding of this matter. And St. Peter sits there bemusedly, pen poised over the paper where the verdict would be written.
We are so much ourselves, so persistently ourselves. Maybe it helps with all closures to image Judgment Day, to image ourselves wrestling with ourselves, to image those we love and have lost wrestling with themselves, lost in the passion of their existence. There is something so very funny about being a human being, and that is probably why there is so little perfect closure when it comes to excommunication, or endings of any sort.