What Death Can Teach

Midway through last week, my wife Staci called and shared with me that her ailing mother was asking for me, and wondered if it was at all possible for me to fly to Spokane to see her. People were gracious, and I changed my
schedule. The plan was that Staci would pick me up at the airport and we would go directly to see her mother at the Hospice House. But as the plane landed, I received a text from Staci saying that she had just left the airport. Her mother’s caregivers had called to say that it would not be long now, and asked me find a ride to the Hospice House as soon as I could. I shared with my Uber driver on the ride over that my mother-in-law was near death, and while I didn’t want him to break any laws, getting there as quickly as possible was imperative.
Seven minutes later, I walked into my mother-in-law’s room to find her two daughters looking like angel wings as they embraced her body on both sides. Then I did what I always did with my mother-in-law—I teased her.
Suddenly her eyes opened, she smiled and attempted to speak. I said to her, “Are you ready for the prayers we talked about?”
She looked right at me, and I knew the answer.
Her daughters continued to hold her as we prayed and anointed her body. As the prayer ended, she took three last breaths, and her earthly pilgrimage ended. She was now on her way to God’s greater glory.
It was a beautiful holy moment.
I am no stranger with death. My father passed away when I was 13. Death came early. Between that time and college graduation, more than ten of my friends died. Death continued to come my way. Shortly after I entered seminary and began to do pastoral care and clinical pastoral education, death became increasingly part of my life. I have spent my ordained life, to say nothing of my personal life, walking with others through their death.
Death has both shaped me and transformed me. Walking with others in this most sacred of spaces is always a kairos experience for me. It reminds me that our lives as beloved children of God exist beyond time and space. That beyond the horizon of our present reality is the fullness of life and love with our Creator God. Death, like Good Friday, is a part of the journey, but it is not the destination. We are Easter people, and our home is eternal life with Christ.

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