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I remember this from my days as a local church pastor. Anytime the phone rings after you’ve gone to bed, its not going to be good news.
And so when my phone rang last Friday night well past my bedtime and I saw who it was, I steeled myself for what was coming.
“He’s dead,” she said through the heaves of grief that were consuming her.
He had gone to visit his mother in the hospital, she said. He never made it back to his car.
Details beyond that aren’t important right now.
I have spent the week holding the dear widow in my heart. Her pain will be great. The emptiness real. The grief palpable.
She will survive. She will carry on. She has the deep assurances of a faith that promises life eternal. She has family. She has friends. She has co-workers. She has purpose. She will survive.
This is far from the first time I have taken such a call. It only needs to happen once before you come face to face with the uncertainty of every tomorrow. You don’t need it to happen a second time.
Death is a painful reminder of how fleeting life is.
We are never assured of anything but the breath we are now taking. The next one is a hope, and a gift when it comes.
There but for the grace of God….
Take stock. Look around you and count your blessings.
Give God thanks for the ones you love and who love you back.
Notice what brings you joy.
Embrace the ones who are special to you.
Do the things you long for.
Don’t wait for something you want to say or need to share or hope to do. Regrets are harder to endure when they are less the result of “I just don’t have the time right now” than “they’re gone and I wish we would have….”
Embed deeply the joys already shared – moments of unutterable joy, knowing that one day they will be all you have left.
And never fail to give thanks for every day with those whom you love. Do not take for granted their smile, their compassion, their embrace, their wisdom, their humor, their patience, their companionship, their quirks, their presence. Breathe it in every day and give thanks for it.
In defiance we write things like “Death be not proud,” or “O grave where is thy victory, o death where is thy sting.” But it does sting. It hurts. It robs us of precious time we wanted with people we love. And it comes like a thief in the night.
May love embrace you fully every day of your life. May you be supported by those whom you love when grief overwhelms and death surprises. And may each day come as a gift for which you give full thanks on this, our journey Into the Mystic.