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Posts tagged ‘death’

Whatsoever is Holy on Saturday in the 30th Week of Ordinary Time

Do you think about death sometimes? Wonder how long you’ll live? How you will die?

I do. Not in a curious way or a dark-Edgar-Allan-Poe sort of way. Just a fleeting thought now and then.

Today’s First Reading is from Philemon in which St. Paul, with St Timothy, writes, If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.img_7512

img_7515My life is not my own. As long as there is breath in me, my life is supposed to be for other people.

Christ living in me.

For to live is Christ, to die is gain.

So, here I am. Still living.

I will lift a closing prayer out of the same passage from today’s First Reading.

Lord,

My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death, for the progress of another and the increase in joy of the faith in all on account of my faithfulness to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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For some reason, the ELO song is going through my head. Only instead of it being a song to some guy named Bruce, it is directed as an arrow meant for the enemy of our souls who just wants to bring us down, who sometimes wants us to only see a downside.

 

 

 

There is no downside. To live is Christ. To die is gain.

 

 

Remembering Seabiscuit

I can vividly remember two Christmas presents from December 2003. My daughter gave my father a plastic horse. Jennifer turned five right before Christmas that year, and she was determined that she would pick out and purchase a gift for everyone in the family. She didn’t want money or opinions from anyone. It was her year to be a giver. She chose a plastic horse at the dollar store and declared, “This one’s for Grandpa.”

I guess that Christmas was the Year of the Horse, because one of my older children received the movie Seabiscuit. On December 28th, we finished the evening meal and sat down to watch the movie as a family. The phone rang in the middle of our movie night, and I went to the bedroom to listen to the message as it recorded. It was my sister. She was calling to say that our dad had just passed away.

We turned off the movie, and we never went back to finish it. My mother gave Jennifer the plastic horse. “Here. Grandpa would want you to have it,” She said. Jennifer received the horse with a heavy heart

A few summers ago, I took a class on social justice through the Paul VI Institute in St. Louis. Today, the instructor showed us a clip of a movie. Mr. Kraus reminded us that our lives mirror the theme of the movie: we have risen from broken lives to discover what we were meant to be – who we are meant to be. Sometimes, we are pretty beat up by the world. We are so screwed up, sometimes, that we have forgotten that we have human dignity. We don’t remember that we are made in the likeness of God. And we fail to realize that our neighbor is God’s special creation as well.

And then he pressed play. The movie was Seabiscuit.

I swallowed hard and permitted the images and lines to wash over me. This was the movie I had refused to watch for nearly a decade.

God seemed to say, it’s okay. You’re ready, and you know it.

This amazing line hit me. “I just can’t help feeling they got him so screwed up, running in circles, that he’s forgotten what he was born to do. He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.”

There was a peace in my spirit as I listened. Denise, you are Seabiscuit. The world did its number on you and you got pretty screwed up. God needed to get your attention, and that was painful. But there was an important lesson to be learned in the dying and brokenness. You needed to learn how to be the one I created you to be. You had forgotten who you are.

I was created in the image and likeness of God! There is a dignity there. I am not created for sin or bitterness or confusion or anger or selfishness or exploitation by anybody. I am made to be Christ to the world. To be His mercy. His love. His joy!

I carry the mark of the risen Christ!

But I had forgotten that.

I am an oblation. An offering back to my God. I am a libation. A pouring out of self for another.

In that same scene, Seabiscuit takes off and runs with such beauty and grace and strength that the jockey (Tobey McGuire) yells out,

“You are an amazing animal!”

Ten years ago today, we paused the movie and began a season of grieving. In time, that grief turned to conversion. And conversion awakened me to my calling.

I remembered how to run with grace.

I can hear my Jockey sometimes. He says, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.” And, like Tobey McGuire, He laughs then and throws back His head, shouting with joy. “You are an amazing creation!”

Like Seabiscuit, there is a sweet release in each one of us when we realize that we are being healed. We run faster than we ever believed we could. Isaiah says it best in chapter 61. I proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. This is your vindication by your God. He will give you the oil of gladness. . . a mantle instead of a faint spirit. . . the planting of the Lord to show his glory.

Okay, so let’s see what you’ve got. It’s time to remember who you are.

Giddy-up.

 

 

The greatest Christmas gift is the original Christmas gift.

I’ve had the same dream twice in the last few weeks.

In the dream, I am dying – not the kind of dream where you are falling and about to hit the ground or someone is going to shoot you and you’ll be dead instantly.

I am dreaming that I have an illness and the loneliness & terrifying suffering stretches out before me. There. Is. Nothing. Else.

I feel the panic rising in me. There is no escape. No one can help me. No one can even walk with me.

Upon waking, I realize that I am not dying. I am not suffering. I do not have a fatal illness. But I also know that I will die. Eventually, I will enter that dark night. And that is a sobering thought.

The only antidote to the terrifying realization (that I will die – and everyone that lives and breathes will eventually die) is that Jesus Christ has conquered death. The dark night will lead to eternal morning. This life is not the sum total of everything – and believing in eternal life does not make one a weak-minded, delusional myth-maker.

No. This hope is wrapped up in strength. It is affirmed by a reality bigger than human synapses that formulate a reality which may or may not be real. God is eternal. The eternal One has become one of us. God entered our world – and hope has triumphed over darkness and death.

There is no gift that comes close to topping that.

If you don’t believe that, then what is the point of a Christmas Tree? Why buy presents at all? Turn off the radio and stop whistling along with Bing Crosby. Or. . .

. . . believe in the good news of the Gospel. All of it – every ornament and song and busy store aisle, every card and ribbon and candle, every ham sandwich and piece of homemade fudge, every sugar cookie and Christmas stocking – has meaning! Rejoice–

Christ, our savior is born!

Come, let us adore Him.

Ice Cream and First Holidays After a Parent’s Death

A woman on Twitter last night admitted that she wasn’t fine. I went to the post she had written and remembered my own season of grief. So acute. An out-of-nowhere ache. Always one thought away from tears.

I remember.

Today, though, I’m running errands. Spending too much on groceries. Looking forward to having all four of my children home for Thanksgiving.

Healing is possible. I’ve known that for awhile. The ache isn’t always so acute.

But healing is not the same thing as forgetting. I don’t forget. I won’t ever forget. And I suspect that ache – that longing to see him again – will return a hundred fold when I am near life’s end.

It will be ten years this December since Dad passed away. Now, the thoughts are easier. Like today, when I got home from the grocery store and wished I’d bought ice cream.

Dad always wanted ice cream. Pie must be a la mode. Ice cream makes everything better.

This year, I can smile when I think of him – when I think of ice cream. I’ve been able to smile for quite awhile. But I’m not so far away from the tears; they aren’t completely packed away.

They’re still there. I’m blinking them back as I write this.

First holidays without those we love – there is no ache like it. So, say a prayer for Tara, that there will be enough grace to get through days when everyone else lists the reasons to be thankful. And you can only think of your ache.

Yes, say a prayer for Tara – and all those who are going through that first-and-hardest holiday without the parent they love so dearly.