The world will feel her lack

Sometimes weeks just don't pan out the way you think they will or should.  You don't expect to spend what seems like ages in the hospital with dear friends, anticipating the death of a beloved mother, wife, aunt, and friend.  These are the moments that the rest of the year's stores of joy are anticipating.  And just when it seems the night couldn't get any longer or unbearable, our Creator grants us grace and the sun peaks above the horizon, bursting with the freshness of a new day.  And after a sleepless night something magical happens as you bask in the sun's rays, while just around the corner there is a fierce battle for life to behold - all the chaos, struggle, and gray - it is neither life nor death but a painful in between.  All the prayers, love, and light in the world are sent to this little ward as we campaign for those we love, knowing the Master of the Universe is just that, the One who knows and sees his beloved.

We took turns sitting beside my Aunt Kathy as she moved in and out of sleep, flooded with the memories of what was and pleading mercy for what will be.  I couldn't help but notice the profound sense of peace and calm in her face.  I wonder what must it be like to lay there, knowing you are surrounded by friends and family visiting at your bedside because you are dying.  I imagine there must be a unique sense of strength and divine companionship.  

It seemed appropriate that she passed from this life to the next on a Sunday morning.  In the African American community, they would call it her "homegoing."  She went home on the sabbath, shabat, the day that is uniquely set aside for worship, rest and shalom.  She experienced the fullness of our Creator's shalom at last.  

Yesterday we celebrated and honored her life.  We rocked out to a soulful rendition of Precious Lord/Just a Closer Walk With Thee* that she would have loved.  And she would have concluded the day with a good glass of wine.  So we did likewise.

I think it is now, after the hospital, the funeral preparations, and the initial shock of it all is over that must be hardest.  I kept thinking of her husband and kids on the drive back to Chicago, wondering just what you do now.  After its all said and done, she's gone and they have to figure out how to do life without her.  I believe God offers a bit of uncommon grace to such as these, and it is with such grace that they will carry on.  Lord, have mercy.  

When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

*Precious Lord is fittingly a gospel song written by Thomas Dorsey as he grieved the loss of his wife and infant son at childbirth.  It was also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite song and sung at this funeral.


A prayer for today

These days, my prayers are quite simple.  I gave up on prayers peppered with religious jargon long ago.  I don't mind meditating on a written prayer from the Book of Common Prayer - those are tried and true, prayed by thousands of people according to the church calendar, and I like the idea that for a moment, we are all on the same page, whispering the same words.  But lately, my days are full and my thoughts overwhelming, and a conversation with God can turn into an onslaught of frustrations, pleas, questions and queries.  Sometimes I just sit in silence, recognizing the power of presence and the inadequacy of language.

But when silence seems too heavy and conversation too much, I've settled on this lovely little prayer.  It often helps me to have a brief yet poignant prayer to repeat throughout my day.  It keeps me grounded, brings me back to my Creator, and gives my spirit purpose.

Give me neither poverty nor riches, Lord, but bread for today, hope for tomorrow.

I am extremely grateful for life this week.  A friend of mine lost someone they loved quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  The week has been busy and exhausting, but I can't stop thinking about the woman who just never woke up last weekend and the family grieving her loss.  

So I think I will go start a batch of bread.  Maybe with a little rosemary and thyme from the herb garden. Baking bread always brings me back to the present - that yeasty fragrance and soft, elastic dough for my hands to sink into.  I think I am a better version of myself when I am making bread.  It is by grace that I am able.