Saturday, December 20, 2014

Death Walked In...


A difficult week...there's no other way to put it. Beginning with
a memorial service for the son of a dear woman in my congregation
-the third son this woman has lost- just after returning from a
restful but emotional retreat in the NC mountains...followed
by a Tuesday e-mail from a dear high school friend, telling me of
the accidental death of the husband of another classmate (A
freak accident, actually- he was felling a tree and it hit him,
killing him instantly)...to Thursday evening's totally unexpected
death due to a massive stroke of a precious friend and fellow
pilgrim, Suzanne Goddard... to yesterday's arrival of her lovely
and very personal Christmas card (she had been at the post office
doing her Christmas mailing when the symptoms began). And today,
I am wrung out...physically, emotionally, and, yes, spiritually.

On Sunday, for the memorial service, I used at the text for my brief
homily, Psalm 22, which begins, My God, my God, why have you
forsaken me?, words also attributed to Jesus as he hung on the
cross. As I contemplated the tribulation and pain amidst which this
dear mother found herself, it seemed most fitting... though I did
close with Psalm 23, since that's where Psalm 22 leads us, both
figuratively and literally.

But in the days since...in the light (or perhaps darkness would be
far more fitting an image) of the other deaths- unexpected,
unexplainable, undesired, undeserved- I have found myself again
and again returning to the words of Psalm 22. Not that I feel
forsaken- exactly- but I do feel the pain of the why and why now
and why them. I do wonder why at this time of year, amidst all
of the joy and celebration, Lady Death still enshrouds us with
her often-unwelcome presence, selectively welcoming some while
bypassing others, for no obvious or apparent reason.

And yet, there is always death in the midst of life. Outside my
window the trees stand empty and barren, their autumn finery long
since spent, their branches stark against the graying, overcast sky,
their seeming lifelessness emblematic of death's own relentless
determination. But at the end of the winter, with the coming of the
warmth and light of springtime, new life in the form of tender
green buds will appear, opening into the glorious green canopy which
surrounds and shades my yard.

But for now, for this moment, I am deeply saddened, traveling in
the valley of the shadows, doing my best to chase Lady Death away
from those I love...all the while knowing that her dependable
relentlessness will touch someone- many someones - this very day,
and they, too, are sisters and brothers of mine. If I am to be
honest and just and loving, each of those deaths is as devastating
to those who love them as the ones in my life have been and are
to me.

Once again, the reality of connections surfaces...the reality that
each person's death does diminish me, but even more, reminds me
of my own mortality, my own numbered days (though the number
remains blessedly unknown to me, to each of us). Each one of us
will at some point walk through the thin veil separating this life
and what is to come, Lady Death leading us by the hand. And once
again, the startling awareness hits me in the face, punches me in
the solar plexus...THIS IS my life...THIS DAY will not come again.
So, do I live it fully and wisely and sometimes foolishly but well?
Is what I am trading this day of my life for worthwhile? And when,
ultimately, it is my turn, what legacy will I leave behind? Will I
have done what I can to make this world a better place? For me,
that is the most important question, the only question that really
matters.

Death will do that, you know...will cause reflection and bring
questions and prod one into action...perhaps. If we let it. As I sit
here in my red recliner, typing on my hot pink Surface tablet,
listening to Christmas music on the stereo, surrounded by the
sights and sounds of the season, I am overcome by the sad but
truthful reality that loss hurts... and that the price of loving and
caring and living is to share in that hurt. And so I say to the ones
who have departed this week- Paul and Curt and Suzanne- God-
speed. This part of the journey is finished; the part about which
we know nothing has begun. You already know things, have
answers to questions, about which we can only wonder and
speculate. The mysteries are being revealed; and your unity
with Holiness is now reality. You will be missed- dearly missed-
but you will be ever and always near in heart. Of that, I am very,
very sure. Christmas blessings, wherever you are.

This is Suzanne...                                 
Smiling
Undaunted
Zealous
Accepting
Nurturing
No-nonsense
Encouraging



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