Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Threshold Wisdom and 11 Words: Thoughts Around the End of Life

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

This fall quietly unfolded as a season of loss for several families close to my heart.  What can we offer at times like this?  What?

I believe the preciousness in these moments comes from what Rachel Naomi Remen referred to as “threshold wisdom”, wisdom we only glean from the edges of life.  Defined simply … “A whole lot less matters and what matters matters a whole lot more.”  And what then “matters”?  Maybe these 11 words from one of the fore-bearers of the hospice movement captures it best…

  1. Please forgive me
  2. I forgive you
  3. Thank you
  4. I love you
If we can somehow live closely into each phrase, as best we can, we can die well.   At times these words are silent.  At times they lie under the surface. But they can still be spoken, as best we can, even in a a season of loss.

Thoughts on Walking Through a Graveyard

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

I love old churches.  Given the choice between a new building, shiny, and an old church with wood and leaks I would take the latter and appreciate the former.   And I love that old churches place themselves – surrounded by graveyards.

Not some dark fascination with the macabre, those graveyards remind in some subtle way, or maybe not subtle, the place of those well worn houses of worship.   Their business … about the business of life, the entirety.  A place of life, death, resurrection, hope, sadness, joy, God, humanity.   Grounds reflected that.  Parishioners walked it.

The one where I stopped I saw from the road numerous times.  Ancient, small, stone, slate roof.  Beautiful.  Old grave makers … too old to read; for a church built in 1722 not a surprise.  Even remembrances of those passed carved right into the stone of the church itself.

And think, 100′s of years.  People walking to church. Sundays. Baptisms, Funerals, Weddings.  All winding to tall wood doors through a path where they saw no doubt family and friends, deceased, “At Rest”, “Gone Home.”  Nothing sad there.  Maybe a melancholy joy.  A reminder time is short.  Live deeply.  A labyrinth as beautiful and profound as Chartres.

And Why Is It That Bad Things Happen?

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

No easy question.

Much of the tragedies in life play out beyond understandable reason.  Why do kids get cancer?  Why was James Foley killed?  What happened in Ferguson Missouri?  I wish I knew.  I wish answers came easily beyond just simple platitudes around “It is all is God’s hands.”  But when my friend Matt passed those simple answers left, swiftly, permanently.  I got clear on one thing when Matt died … God is not in the business of taking a loving father away from his 5 children.

F. Scott Peck observed the mystery of health is far greater than the mystery of illness.  Absolutely.  There is a greater mystery around grace and caring and compassion than evil and depravity.  Over and over again in this job one witnesses those greater mysteries of love, self-sacrifice, resilience.  Last night, Ronald McDonald House, one of our first time volunteers …. “I was amazed how happy people were.”  So am I.   15 years volunteering there and I remain amazed.

And that amazement … what does it mean?  I think it means I can simply rest that God is there too, in those breakings large and small.  It is not for me to understand the why’s and wherefore’s.  It is for me to watch and listen and pray.  And thank God for his presence in those kids and those parents, a presence beyond me and my cracked, futile attempts to figure it all out.  As if figuring it all out would matter.  Because what matters is that my heart breaks as does God’s.  And that we learn again and again in a way simple, hard and profound … to roll up our sleeves.

Working Through The Passing Of Someone Young

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This has been a challenging week as members of our congregation here and abroad have faced losing dear friends or members of their family who passed away before what could be called “their time.”  I actually just returned from one funeral in New Jersey and will attend another Thursday night.

Hard stuff.  No way around it.

And the logical and predictable question is why?  In an era when faith is often held onto tentatively, these events can be incredibly destructive, leaving a hole that never really heals.  Talk of “silver linings” and “they were more needed in heaven” tends to ring hollow.  So what is one to do?

Give Up Trying to Understand It:

I don’t see these events as understandable.  They don’t make “sense” from a rational perspective.  Christ as I understand it never asks us to make sense of it, to figure it out.  I know for me, at the untimely passing of my dear friend Matt, the best I could do was get clear that cancer killed him, not God.

Give Into Faith:

Giving into faith is not a intellectual assent. It is something far more profound.  It is a simple trust yielding to a gentle wisdom that there is a bigger picture.  As Richard Rohr noted, the question is constantly put before us: “Is God to be trusted?” That is the great question that the human race at the most basic level is asking. We hear Jesus continuing to ever more resoundingly answer, “Yes, God is on your side. Yes, God is more for you than you are for yourself.”

And faith is to be found at that heart level, in that reaching out one person to another.  I witnessed today a mom tenderly tucking a favorite jacket around her son as they prepared to close his casket.   That is an act of faith.  Sunday morning I witnessed stream of Seniors at a local school make their way to the home of a student to connect with one another following the passing of a beloved teacher.  That is an act of faith.  I communicated with a young mom who made sure to dole out extra kisses and love to her infant daughter and husband during her time of deep grief following the passing of a friend.  That is an act of faith.

Faith is not certainty. It is trust.  It is trust that we have access to a love that heals and binds and that we can freely share it, even in the depth of our own pain.  That love is God’s gift.  We may not be able to  answer in ways that satisfy the question, “Why do people die young?” But what it does answer is what God’s grace truly is – the rugged, courageous, indestructible love that underlies the depth of caring in the face of darkness.

On behalf of NewChurch LIVE, our thoughts and prayers are with Shanon, Michael, Harper, Jenny, Lasandra, Jason, Jaclyn, Wayne, Merrily, Riley, and Cole.  We wish you rest for your souls at this time of painful transition.   Bless you.

Losing A Thought, Gaining Your Soul

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I was listening to a priest today who made a fascinating point.  He talked of what occurred when the idea that we are separated from God dies.  When that thought goes, so does our separation from God.

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote of attention to the spiritual being attention to what was real.  God is omnipresent – is everywhere.  As the Bible so beautifully words it – Where can I can go Lord that you are not?

I think many have those moments in which the thought of being separated from God disappears.  We are in the moment and that moment, at times, is pure heaven.

That is the essential unity of creation.  We move away from dualism, from separation, to unity, to the oneness spoken of by Jesus in the Gospel of John.

The priest went to talk of moments near death, moments when the brain “stops”, the chatter “stops”, when the thought we are separate from God “stops.”  What decision is left but to fall into the loving arms of God.  As one dear friend said on his deathbed, “It is all so perfect.”