Margret Atwood, the great Canadian writer, posits that ‘you need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.’ You may have noticed that in these past few months, I have not had a lot of nerve! The truth is, I love to write and my writing usually comes from a place deep within myself. In the past few months one of two things has happened. At some points I have gone deep within and felt a sense of emptiness, mostly due to being poured out entirely. On other occasions, my journey within took me to a place of discovery that seemed to personal for ‘blogging.’ Perhaps more accurately, those discoveries were rooted in the vulnerable soil of my life and witness and I was unable to share those reflections, at least at that time.
The good news for me is that life is lived in many seasons the tides of self discovery raise and fall continually. I feel a renewed desire to write and to share what I experience and what I feel on my spiritual quest. These past few weeks have brought their challenges and there are a host of things that are rising to the surface that might be ‘blog worthy.’
On November 25th I stood over my father’s bed at the hour of his death and the moment of his rebirth and I prayed these words:
Depart, O Christian Soul, out of this world,
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you.
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you.
In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you,
May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.
I had not envisioned what it would mean to pray those words over the greatest man I had ever known. I had not really prepared myself for the nature ‘being priest’ and ‘being son’ at the same time. It was a HOLY moment really. A moment wherein my dad, in his own room, moonlight bay shining in the big picture window, surrounded by his wife of nearly 60 years, his seven children and spouses as well as some of his grandchildren, moving between the surly bonds of death to the freedom of everlasting life that he so desperately longed for in those last days. It was a very grounding moment in my life. Looking out the window that morning we could all see just a few dozen yards away the place where dad was born 93 years earlier. It was an awesome thought – All those years on George’s Hill. Love was poured out completely. I stood and looked around the homestead and found that I was looking at his loved expressed from floor to ceiling, from wall to wall and from child, to grandchild, and to great grandchild. Holding his large hands, I was reminded of the boats he built, homes he help build and repair, the many gadgets he fixed, the fish he split, the buttons he pushed on accordion, the watches he fixed and the countless crafts and toys that he fashioned. Some of our greatest toys as children were made with those large, yet gentle hands. For a few moments I was taken away and indeed overwhelmed by the awesome nature of where we stood. We were on holy ground as we prayed with Dad that morning.
Words are weak at this time. The same Margret Atwood mentioned earlier once expressed that "The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love." I could not agree more with that sentiment. There are not enough words for me to express how much I loved Dad and how loved I felt by him. I think that is true for all of us. I will miss my father – he was such an inspiration in my life. I am glad to have been with dad as he readied himself for death. Henri Nouwen wrote:
"There comes a time in all our lives when we must prepare for death. When we become old, get seriously ill, or are in great danger, we can’t be preoccupied simply with the question of how to get better unless "getting better" means moving on to a life beyond our death. In our culture, which in so many ways is death oriented, we find little if any creative support for preparing ourselves for a good death. Most people presume that our only desire is to live longer on this earth. Still, dying, like giving birth, is a way to new life, and as Ecclesiastes says: "There is a season for everything: … a time for giving birth, a time for dying" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
We have to prepare ourselves for our death with the same care and attention as our parents prepared themselves for our births."
One of the ways that dad prepared for death was to tell us all that he was proud of us. "Kevin, I am dying," he told me in August when we visited him and mom. "But I ready to die. I am proud of all of my children and all of their families. I have had a good life and I am ready to die." He was not morbid or dire about it. He simply wanted me to know that his life was good and he measured that goodness by the pride that he felt in his family. There is a season for everything – hard as it was Dad embraced the season for death as we know it. He also embraced peace, and a dwelling in the Paradise of God.
Take a look at Dad telling us about the crafts in his yard – A youtube video I posted a little over a year ago – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlrZHIebpFE – great memories.