During our retreat this weekend, titled “Sacred Journey, Toward the End of Life,” we covered a lot of territories. Reliving some of my own experiences as a caregiver for 30 years in my community was a healing exercise for me. I got a better understanding of how truly sacred are lives are….though I am still at the beginning of this journey.
Now that I am getting older, I know that sooner or later (well not that much later) I will finally find out what it is like to have others help me in my last mile of life. That last mile can take a very short time to traverse, or perhaps it may take years. Some people are spared this journey because they die in an instant. Are they the lucky ones? That is a question that can’t be answered in this world.
All we can do is to try to live out our lives the best we can and when our ends draw near to hopefully be able to make that journey with others and with grace. If not with grace, then hopefully we will be journeyed with by people who understand and will show compassion. I don’t want to die suddenly. I believe that the ‘last mile’ is the most important time of life. My death is the seed that is planted that will bear fruit into eternity.
I believe that it is impossible to be really objective about the ‘meaning of life.’ There is so much that is right in this world, yet, what is right about our lives is not a problem to be solved, we simply live it. What about the wrong in our existence — suffering, loss, emotional and physical pain? We have to live through it as well, but do we also have to figure out? Why? Well, that is what we all end up doing. It’s like climbing a mountain, the steeper it is, the greater the challenge.
“Perspective is everything,” as the saying goes. A strongly held belief, or idea, about what life is about can either help or hinder us dealing with the dark underbelly of life. Today, these ‘perspectives’ are shouted from the house top, each one seemingly true for those who shout. So, it can be very confusing. Still, whatever life brings us, has to be lived out, there is no escape. In the end, we have to get through it.
Christians have their own perspective about God, life, suffering, and death. The more deeply one seeks to understand their Christian faith, live it, and make it real, the more it will influence how they deal with life and its many joys as well as its sufferings. It’s easy to shout out slogans about what it means to be a Christian, yet, far more difficult to live it out in the day-to-day world, and to have the patience to allow while its meaning sinks in at ever deeper level. The message of the Christian path is simple on one level, yet multifaceted on others.
I have been around death a lot. Been with many who have died, though they were all older than me. Now that I am nearing the age of those I once took care of and sat with when they died, I am now brought to the face to face reality of diminishment, illness, suffering and the learning to see the meaning of it all through my faith. This brings me strength and joy, along with the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring.
I would suspect that people of other faith traditions who seek to understand life’s meaning and mysteries can also arrive at some level of peace with their own movement towards the end of life. For some, faith is about seeking, digging, dying to self, and allowing God to expand their hearts, to learn how to serve and love.
For others, it is something to do on Holy Days, funerals and weddings and days of dedication. I would rather belong to the first group. I do believe however that those in the second group, that many will seek deeper meaning as life “happens” to them.
Jesus promised that those who seek shall find. Perhaps in the seeking, we can understand that we never arrive fully understand life’s true meaning and, especially, the implications of love. Those who seek, whoever they are, when presented with the truth will rejoice in it, embrace it, and joyfully let go of all that interferes with union with Truth itself.
We can stop and stall,
seek not to look and understand
still to no avail.
Life happens, loss comes,
as well as love, joy, and peace,
still, all things pass
for in life there is no brake,
we plow on hopefully
with faith as our guide
a faith deeply felt,
studied and truly lived out
in its fullness.