Two weeks ago, I spent time with a dear friend and with her mother. Her mother had been placed on hospice a week and a half before our visit. Ann (my friend’s mother) and I had shared many conversations over time about prayer, forgiveness and the importance of showing kindness toward all. During this visit, we talked about being on hospice. She and I had a great conversation about how she felt about this part of the journey. She talked with confidence about the “guy” upstairs being in charge. He would take care of her and after she died He would take care of her husband.
The other night when I went to sit with Ann and her family as she prepared for the very last part of her journey. Her family members were gathered round her bed for hours. There were times of story-telling, laughter, prayer, tears and quiet. All of us kept our eyes on both Ann and her husband, John. Ann and John had been married sixty plus years. John held Ann’s hand throughout the vigil and periodically would close his eyes. As I watched him I wondered how he was making peace with this part of their journey together.
Ann died shortly after John let go of her hand and moved from his wheel chair to a near-by chair with more support. All of us were quiet immediately after she died and then each of us in our own way allowed the grief to express itself. I went out to a piano in the assisted living home and played until my sadness gave voice through my tear ducts.
In the readings for March 23rd I am reminded that God has a long history of being faithful to a love affair with us, whether we are able to accept His grace or not. God is there in those times of “twixt and between” as well as seeming absence. In the second reading and in the gospel, I am reminded that God held back nothing from us, not even His son Jesus, in order that I would have the grace to accept His love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
In my conversation with Ann a few weeks ago, she was certain that she was part of this amazing gift. Her certainty seemed to guide her breath in the final moments when she crossed from this world to the next.
I have been helping with the care of John the last couple of days. His pain is palatable and yet he has given me so many stories about Ann and him. He seems to know for his heart to heal he must give voice to those stories and give way to that firm believe that his beloved is in a better place. His courage awakens in me a deeper appreciation to move toward my own Lenten hope.
Intellectually I believe that Lent is a time given to me to deepen my relationship with the Holy One and to let go of those things that keep me stuck at the banks of Babylon. My deepest hope during this time is that I might be open to those experiences that help me cross the bridge from my intellect into my heart. It is no small task to move from idea to deep knowing.
As I move into this coming week, may I cross that holy bridge with the certainty that “the guy upstairs will take care of me” and that the message of John 3:16 invites me beyond the banks of Babylon to that place that Ann now knows in fullness.