Compassion Fatigue

Yesterday began with the news that, due to some complications, a friend who has pancreatic cancer will have to wait a week for her chemotherapy to begin. She’s handling her new hardship quite admirably but I don’t want her to have cancer and she still does.

A little while later, as I drove to a meeting, I spoke with another old friend who has just found out she has brain cancer. It’s too early to tell just what she is facing but it’s certainly a critical situation. As I listened to her and drove along, I watched a cat run out of nowhere into a huge intersection about a hundred yards in front of me. I tried to will the cat through the maze of rushing cars but it really had no chance. If it hadn’t been that car, it would have been one of the dozens of others. The image of the life so quickly and randomly taken stuck with me as I kept listening to my friend.

During the meeting I was going to I received the message that a dear friend who has been battling cancer for many years finally succumbed. As I left the meeting to go to her bedside someone so thoughtfully handed me a cooler containing supper for me and my family. She said she knew it was a busy time and hoped this might help. Funny how we can we be so touched by the kindness of others.

At the bedside my friend’s family and I gathered around and went through the liturgy of Ministration at the Time of Death. I tried to start to read the prayers but the reality of her death rushed in and took my breath away for a moment. A gentle hand of a member of her family on my back conveyed a message: It’s okay; take your time.

An email followed a little later. Someone who means a lot to me has suffered a relapse in addiction. How to help with such a baffling disease?

The day ended with a conversation with someone struggling with depression. She’s worked through some hard issues before and she will again but the darkness is hard to bear.

In between those events was the evening Eucharist in our Chapel with a small, intimate crowd. The Old Testament lesson spoke of Cain taking the life of his brother Abel. The Gospel spoke of Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus. Last night the moon was full and mystically illumined our bedroom in a comforting way. This morning the Robins are out in force for the first time I have heard them this year.

It’s a dangerous and dark world, that’s for sure. Some days it all piles up and hits us from every angle. It hurts to know that so many others hurt. And then there are our own big and little personal wounds to tend to. Sometimes it feels like it’s all just too much.

But in the midst of the darkness a clear light inevitably breaks through, a touching gesture is made, a gentle hand reassures, the sounds of new life pop in, and there are reminders that God is transforming this broken world where brothers kill brothers into a world where brothers take brothers closer to Jesus. If life is unsurmountable for you this day, there will be a new day and the pain you know will be made well. The compassion we have sometimes leads to a great fatigue. The compassion of the Almighty God, however, leads to the redemption of the world.


Yours faithfully,

Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.




Annual Meeting – Sunday, January 26, at 11:15 in the Parish Hall


Vestry Slate of Nominees


Kathleen Bradford

Marney Garzon

Mary Goldthwaite

Katharine Harris

Lawrence Hughes

Cissy Johnson

Jim Locke

Will Marks

Dinah McLemore

Keith Miller

Stephanie Norrell

Oliver Smyth

Geoff Stough

Todd Westhauser


On Sunday, January 26, at 11:15 am, the parish will gather for its Annual Meeting and will elect seven persons to serve a three year term on the Vestry. Fourteen names have been put forward from our Nominating Committee. Each of them is duly qualified to serve and we are privileged to have each of them stand for election. A brochure will be sent out with photos and biographical sketches so that your vote may be informed. If you are unable to attend the meeting you may vote prior to the meeting by obtaining a ballot through the church office. Those members of the parish 18 and older may vote. You do not need to be confirmed to vote.