"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them."
~ John 17:13
This morning I find myself sitting at the bedside of my cousin, watching him die. In hospice circles we call it, "actively dying." In my heart I know it is his journey to God and to the peace that his soul has searched his entire life to find.
I'm sad. He was among my first childhood friends, and he has taught me so much about how to love "unconditionally," especially in the last few months as we have reconnected for this most important journey together.
This morning I am a witness to the person who hung next to Jesus, asking that he be remembered when he enters into his Kingdom, and Jesus telling him, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."
As I watch him, I can't help but realize how his dying is making me think of my own mortality, and how I hope my final hours are filled with friends and family by my side, telling me that it will be "okay."
I remember eighteen years ago, sitting beside him in the ICU after he had a mechanical heart valve placed, and how this morning, placing my hand on his chest, feeling this piece of miraculous mechanical marvel, now slowly going silent.
I have prayed with hundreds of people as they have made this journey, but yet this morning's prayer lifted is filled with my own tears and sadness. My grief is real and is overwhelming me, but yet, I smile and tell him, "I love you," and that everything will be, "okay."
Even as I write this, I watch each breath, think of the laughter we have shared, the tears that we have cried, and of our history that we have in common.
The valley of the shadow of death leaves me with a new perspective this morning. I remember two small boys playing in their great-grandmother's back yard, taking turns riding a tractor powered by small feet on pedals, and sharing fudge ice cream bars on hot summer days. I embrace the reality that at the time of our death, goodness and mercy surrounds us.
Watching him I recognize and confess our sameness. God came for both the powerful and powerless, not to point out our differences, but to acknowledge how we are the same. God does not come in to take our pain away, but to share it as well. Our hearts become open as we share this experience with one another.
It is in times like these that we cannot minimize the unlimited and unlimiting acceptance that each of us are the beloved children of God, with an acceptance that is total and embraces us completely. It is a divine gift that never abandons us. Death does not have a final say. It may be intrusive and visible at this time, but it cannot overcome the resurrection and the life to come.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.