Another friend of mine is dying.
In the past 4 months I’ve gone to 4 memorial services, 3 for long-time friends and one that we officiated for person who was unhoused in our local community. The range on ages was 37 to 58, with three sudden deaths and one short and valiant battle with cancer. With money, without money, with health insurance, without it, with a beautiful house, without a roof over their head, with healthy lifestyles, with just-the-opposite.
Death crosses every difference.
I always say “I’m not certain of much, but I am 100%-without-a-doubt certain of this—we’re all going to die.” It makes me think of something that the wise Anne Lamott says—“A hundred years from now? All new people.”
100 years from now? All new people.
This is not super comforting at the moment. In fact, right now it feels a bit distressing.
I don’t want to die.
I don’t want my friends to die.
I don’t want another parent to die.
I don’t want to go to another memorial service or officiate another celebration of life any time soon.
I don’t want to live with the realities of grieving mixed in with so much good right now. To have to live with the paradoxical combination of laughing and playing on our boat as summer comes to a close, cheering people on, while so many are suffering.
But I’m also 100% certain that I am going to have to live into this ongoing reality.
Yesterday my day consisted of typical Refuge nuttiness, a mix of taking care of a bunch of administrative tasks that I’m about two months behind on, phone calls to some local agencies, navigating finding support for folks, and #waterheals fun on the lake for our young adult group. Oh, and in the middle of it all, having to talk through end of life questions with a longtime friend and single mom in her early 40’s with a pack of kids who just transitioned into hospice.
Real questions that can no longer be avoided.
I got off the phone and could feel the tears rise, my breath catch, my heart so heavy, my soul incredibly grateful that we entered into that thin space together but also overwhelmed with what’s ahead.
Another beautiful, messy, complicated, tender, amazing-made-in-God’s-image light set for leaving this earth far too soon.
Another reminder of the fragility of life.
Another story of how Jesus’ healing doesn’t usually look like what we think it does.
Another challenge to hold on to all that we have very loosely because none of us know when it’s our time to go.
Another stirring to embrace our mere mortal-ness that we often want to avoid.
Another opportunity to savor today.
Another whisper in my ear that says, “Accept mortality, Kathy.”
I’m trying, really trying. And as much as I believe in some kind of whole and free life for all our souls after this, it doesn’t change take away the pain, the loss, the ache of our limited humanity.
The older I get, I know the numbers will keep ramping up.
Plus, the more we are connected on social media, the more we hear about these losses in ways that used to not exist. I am so glad to know what’s happening with friends from all over the world, but I am also struck by how.much.death is stirring around in so many people’s lives. Parents, kids, spouses, colleagues. From every angle, another loss.
And then so many people living with the fallout of grief. The waves that come in the most unexpected times. The wondering “Why does this still hurt so bad after so many years?” “How can I survive this pain?” “Will I ever feel whole again?” “Why am I here and they’re not?”
And one of the hardest questions, “When is it going to be me?”
I have these strange anxious waves where I get a little headache and wonder if it’s a brain aneurism coming or I have a bruise I didn’t notice and wonder if I need to have my blood checked and all kinds of other wild and oh-so-human thoughts about what if’s.
Do any of you know this feeling?
The best thing we can do is talk about it.
To just honor the strange, the pain, the uncertainty, the grief, the good, the truth of our mortality and the beauty of the life that’s still in us. To share our stories and help our friend’s stories live on.
And to consider our own story, too.
To wrestle with the question from the late Mary Oliver—“What do you want to do with this one wild, precious life?”
To be challenged by the words of the late Toni Morrison—“The function of freedom is to free someone else”—and use whatever time we have here on earth to contribute what we can to topple unjust systems and fight against racism and sexism and classism and ableism and unloved-ism.
To be activated by the words of the late Rachel Held Evans—“This is what God’s kingdom looks like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”—and keep saying yes and making room.
To wonder how we can keep loving our neighbor, ourselves, God, as best we can for today because today’s all we’ve got.
To honor our mortality and use it to propel us to live.
Love and hope from Colorado today, Kathy