Tag Archives: Death

For Sam

You cannot hurry Death, or make it wait.

It will come when it is ready, not a moment sooner.

Even after all the prayers are said, and all the permissions given,

Even after the sins are absolved,

and the Bread and Cup have been received one last time,

Even then,

Death takes its own time.

“Not yet,” Death whispers.

Soon, but not now.

Death will slip in the door when you aren’t looking.

While you doze beside the deathbed, or turn to adjust a pillow.

Just when you’ve relaxed and thought to yourself,

“He seems to be getting better – is that possible?”

Or just as someone else calls your name and you look away …

Death will come,

Stealing the last breath as you wait for the next one and realize (too late)

He’s already gone.

There are no words

Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei

Unspeakable sorrow.

Unimaginable pain.

Loss. Tragedy.

None of these words has enough depth of meaning when I think of the suffering more than two dozen families are experiencing as I write this. My petty little sorry-I’ve-been-too-busy-to write-anything planned bit of cheerfulness just got swept away in the horror of death. Children, gone. Like that – just, gone.

Where is the invitation to wait for the coming of our Lord in glory, amid all this senselessness? It is here, amid this senselessness. Precisely amid this senselessness, we wait. We hope. We struggle to comprehend. We sorrow for the brokenness that could allow such a terrible thing to happen. We remember that Herod slaughtered little boys when Jesus was born, just as tragically, just as senselessly. And Rachel wept, as we weep now.

Loss. Tragedy.

Unimaginable pain.

Unspeakable sorrow.

Good Grief

Within the past 48 hours, tragic death has touched three members of my far-extended family. These weren’t people I know, for my relationship to them is very tangential – a cousin-in-law’s step-daughter’s cousin, for example – but their deaths on or near Thanksgiving Day are stark reminders that life itself is something to be cherished, something for which to thank God.

Death doesn’t ever wait for a convenient time, and the number of tragedies connected to holiday celebrations seems to climb each year. Or maybe I just notice them more as I grow older. But this connection between joy and sorrow is nothing new. The Psalmist often combined lament and sorrow with praise and thanksgiving. The paradoxical connection between expressing personal pain and giving glory to God in all circumstances weaves its way throughout the biblical narrative. Grief and rejoicing are not such strange bedfellows. This is why a New Orleans funeral dirge turns into an amazingly joyful Dixieland dance when the saints go marching in.

As your holiday weekend draws to a close, as the shopping spree ends and the turkey leftovers move into smaller containers in the refrigerator, please take a moment to look around the room at those who share your day-in, day-out routines, and thank God for them. Show them how much you love them. Show them how much God loves them. Take nothing for granted. Life is precious. Thanks be to God.