When the Rev. Roger Lynn of the Veradale United Church of Christ got sick the week before Christmas, there was no statement from the pulpit announcing his illness and asking for prayers. Instead Lynn went digital, sending out a steady stream of mass emails and Facebook posts from his ICU hospital bed.
Diagnosed with a blood clot in each lung, Lynn, 56, thought nothing of talking about his health issues in detail. He talked about the fear he felt in an email sent on Dec. 20. “This was followed almost immediately by a huge sense of sadness as I thought about all the people I needed to call to tell them how much I love them,” he wrote. “Please know that I am grateful beyond words for the gift of having you in my life and the love that flows from me to you is more than I can say.”
Laying himself bare in emails was natural for Lynn, who acknowledges it is not the “old school” way. “I’m not sure it’s all that unusual to do it that way anymore,” he said.
His openness has its roots in his wife’s illness three years ago. Veronica Lassen was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had already spread to her bones. She spent two weeks in the hospital before she developed a blood clot and died.
During the time his wife was hospitalized, Lynn turned to email to let friends and family know what was happening. “I knew that I needed support,” he said. “It started with emailing a dozen friends. It quickly grew from there.”
Soon he had a blog on the CaringBridge website to keep people updated and also used Facebook. Lynn said he was buoyed by the flood of support he received. “It became an absolutely essential part of how I made it through all that,” he said. “It wasn’t through any grand wisdom on my part. I just sort of fell into it. By laying myself open like that, what I got back was an amazing sense of connection.”
Lynn also discovered that sharing his experiences touched people in a way that ministered to them. “The way that the sacred shows up is manifested in who I am and what I experience,” he said.
Lynn, who is the transitional pastor at Veradale UCC, began having problems catching his breath and developed a cough weeks ago. “It was certainly noticeable,” he said. “It seemed like it was getting worse.”
On Dec. 19 he didn’t feel well and drove himself home. He had to stop five times between his garage and his apartment. Feeling like he was about to pass out, he called 911. “It just kind of slammed into me,” he said. “I couldn’t get my breath.”
Lynn said doctors don’t know why he developed the clots. He isn’t a smoker and hadn’t taken any long trips recently. “Often they come from the legs, I understand, and move up from there,” he said. “The doctors did tell me I was very lucky to get in when I did.”
He was treated with blood thinners and sent home on Christmas Eve.
Several of the emails Lynn sent out to people on the church’s email list were introspective as he considered his brush with death. “I didn’t ‘see the light’ or anything, but this was, for me at least, a big deal,” he wrote in a Dec. 26 email. “And I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience ever since. More than thinking about it, however, I’ve been feeling it and living with it and letting it sink down deep in my bones and my soul.”
That, too, comes naturally for Lynn. “I’m a bit introspective anyway,” he said. “Processing is what I do. I reflect on stuff. I put stuff out there. I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.”
Lynn is back at work but taking it easy. A member of his congregation gave him a ceramic turtle to put on his desk as a reminder to slow down. “My congregation has been amazing in their support,” Lynn said.
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