"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives believing in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
~ John 11:25 - 26
Knowing that you are going to die changes you. It's the reality that we will all encounter one day. Every person I meet as a hospice chaplain knows that about themselves. It is something that we talk openly about, and rarely do we speak of it in terms that we often have used to describe it, "passing away," "going to be with Jesus," "going to heaven," or the infamous, "entering eternal rest." No, often what I hear is, "I am dying, I am going to die."
Even Jesus asks that a cup pass from him. Scripture struggles to identify the cup as death. While on the cross, as Jesus cries out words of abandonement, then comes "It is finished," Jesus does not declare that "I am dying."
Our own mortality involves the encounter with death, and the faith that eternity will step in and rescue us as we take our last breath. In our case, and as often shared in faith communities, our last breath in this life will be met by heaven as we take our next.
So often as I prepare to share the broken body of Christ and His blood poured out with others through the eucharist, I remind those present, "For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and that one day we shall see Him face to face."
It is a reality that our journey must encounter death. The valley of the shadow of death where we are taught that we should not be afraid, that truly frightens us, is where so many of my daily conversations find themselves.
I'd like to say that I have the perfect words to provide comfort during these conversations. There are times when I leave the bedside trying to convince myself that my own faith will sustain me when I enter that same valley.
It's as if Lent has been created as a time each year that passes in our life to prepare us for this very encounter. To recognize that chapters end, and eternity approaches. To be able to say, "It is well with my soul," and to know that the hands of God will still hold me as I let go.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.