Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Life and Death are in God's Hands

Life and Death are in God's Hands

Lord, you alone know this mystery,
this disjointed and jarring death,
this ending of life
that is happening for some of us now,
for others soon,
for others later.

Death is entirely mundane, 
scarcely noticed in the world,
but supremely significant and utterly personal
for each one of us.
Lord, this event that will finally establish who I am, forever...
its coming seems like a rolling of the dice!
I know nothing of the day nor the hour.
Perhaps I shall die tonight, tomorrow, 
or next week, next month, next year, 
or in five years, or ten, 
or fifteen, twenty, thirty...

I pray for my life and safety and health, 
I try to take good care of myself, 
I avoid dangers that I know,
and yet I hold no power that guarantees 
a single moment
beyond the present that you, O Lord, 
are giving me now.
You alone hold the span of whatever life remains for me,
but my confidence is in you,
for I know that you are good.

Father, you love me, you know me, 
you want what is good for me.
You ask me to find my peace by trusting in you
for whatever comes, for whatever remains.

Indeed, these may be my final words, my epitaph,
my last labors, the utterance that precedes
the unexpected sudden stillness of my breath.

Or perhaps years of new, vast, and arduous work 
are still ahead of me.
Maybe a road of venerable old age stretches before me,
with an abundance of joys,
with unimagined new cares and responsibilities,
with - finally - achievements I have dreamed of all my life.

Years may yet remain for memory and discovery;
years with harsh miseries too:
a terminal illness to break my nerves,
or a slow decline, 
new unremarkable infirmities,
quiet suffering, 

One way or another, however, 
I will have to face the end.
I will die.

Dear God, my poor faith tells me 
that I am in your loving hands,
that your mercy shapes (especially) this last moment for me,
that your Holy Spirit is here 
to guide my remaining steps
with infinite wisdom and utterly personal love,
to lead me into your embrace, 
where I will find the only enduring joy.

Still, death is strange. 
I don't know what it is like,
when it will happen,
what trials it will require me to endure,
what temptations might rise up 
in that unparalleled last second
(Lord, grant me perseverance to the end!)
or what period of purgation,
what intensity of ultimate refining fire I must pass through
to reach you, my Father,
when you come rushing forth lovingly to meet me.

My only recourse is you,
who are so full to overflowing with love for me.
I trust in you.

Whether that final day be near or far,
I host fast to you, my God, in firm hope,
I entrust everything to your goodness and mercy.
I pray for the grace of a good death, 
through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is the resurrection and the life,
your Word made flesh who has made his dwelling with us,
who in dying wins the victory over sin and death,
who has risen from the dead
that we might live forever in the glory of a New Creation.