Life and Death
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Two years ago on Valentine’s Day my beloved friend and colleague Susan died. Sue and I were friends for twenty years and we worked together closely in the wider church for fifteen. Our relationship was one of the most significant of my life. Her illness and death were the most difficult experiences. In these weeks surrounding this anniversary, when the loss again feels large and I can see vividly again the unfolding of her final days, I am aware that this time some things feel different. I am not undone by my sadness, for instance. In fact, I find that I want to savor and explore it, which may sound strange, but I see in the longing I feel a sign of how much her life touched mine and how well we loved each other.
As I look back, I also see there are some things during her years of illness that I would like to have done differently. I want to learn from them even as I also know we did the best we could at the time. It seems to me that a gift of grieving, if there is such a thing, may be a deepened well of compassion and patience both for ourselves and for others simply because we have experienced how hard things can be.
Surviving a large death has also put all the smaller disappointments in my life into perspective. The truth is, in one way or another, we are all dying all the time – physically, emotionally, spiritually. But with each loss, or transition, or change, I have come to believe there is the possibility that something new may be born in the dark fertility of death. If we are willing to enter it fully, we may emerge to find ourselves inspired to live with more immediacy, more courage, and more passion. We may actually end up becoming more alive.
Prayer: Gracious Spirit, who moves over the mysteries of living and dying, help us to find your grace in every ending and every beginning that we may not just grow old, but grow new each day, praising the One who shows us the meaning of abundant life. Amen.