This week our friend Bruce contacted us to say his dear wife of thirty plus years had died suddenly the day before. He didn’t give many details and when I offered our phone numbers to call us, he said he was just too broken right now.
The next night I got a call from a former member of the church I came from to accept the Montana pastorate. He was calling from the hospital with seven blockages in his heart and awaiting surgery the next morning. In such moments, it can seem like death is stalking you.
The next day I got a text from a hospice chaplain that one of our church members who has long been in nursing home care was “imminent,” death expected within hours. When I went to the nursing home, the woman had died not long before I arrived.
Somehow these events combined have weighed on me. I came across the phrase in a poem “the obesity of grief.” How descriptive of the heaviness, the immensity of loss.
Whenever I think of death or the inherent grief, I think of the poet John O’Donohue, who spoke so eloquently and wisely about those experiences. I share with you “For Death,” which he penned:
By John O’Donohue
“From the moment you were born,
your death has walked beside you.
Though it seldom shows its face,
you still feel its empty touch
when fear invades your life,
or what you love is lost
or inner damage is incurred…
Yet when destiny draws you
into these spaces of poverty,
and your heart stays generous
until some door opens into the light,
you are quietly befriending your death;
so that you will have no need to fear
when your time comes to turn and leave,
that the silent presence of your death
would call your life to attention,
wake you up to how scarce your time is
and to the urgency to become free
and equal to the call of your destiny.
That you would gather yourself
and decide carefully
how you now can live
the life you would love
to look back on
from your deathbed.”
May we indeed be called to attention, gather ourselves and decide carefully how we can live in this present moment.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: I once attended a workshop where we were instructed to imagine ourselves at 80. (Amazing how that doesn’t feel so very far away now. At the time I was 36). We were to consider receiving some message, some wisdom, from our 80 year-old selves. I remember the message I understood, both startling and comforting, was “Thank you for doing the things you needed to do so that I can look back on my life now with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.” I did and I can.