A Birthday Gift

Almighty One, you alone are my portion and my cup;

you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

– Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)

Today, June 29th, our dear friend who is in hospice care is hosting his own birthday party and inviting hundreds of those he loves.

Marty has an uncanny knack for meeting people who become beloved friends. This psalm makes me think of him: boundaries lines just keep expanding.

Meeting Marty, you would soon discover that as the cancer has grown in him his determination to live with delight has grown even more. He relates the love of his husband and daughters and grandchildren with wonder. He describes his pain with clinical detail. He shares the fatigue, the richness, and the humdrum-edness of his days with appreciation.

The ancient teachers keep telling us: heaven is both now and not yet. Something coming, something already here. Marty keeps telling us, with urgency: the “delightful inheritance” is now.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” (Psalm 16:9-10)

I’m getting it, Marty: the only death I have to fear is the death that occupies me while still drawing breath. Today’s celebration of your life and love is big enough to hold eternity.


God, my refuge: thank you for speaking so passionately through Marty. Thank you for the birthday gift he is giving, even while dying, making known the path of fullness of life. Amen.

About the Author
The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of the Congregational Church of Salisbury (CT).