In Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey, "death" has been the topic for the past two days (August 21 and today, August 22). Death is an important topic. It's not one that many will talk about or even prepare for.
Maybe you've had deaths in your family, your circle of friends, your work, your school, your church, and even your neighborhood.
I've had deaths in each of those categories. The most recent being my neighborhood. It was a death that caught me by surprise. I didn't even know she (the mom) was sick. The family across the street is quiet, but we wave and smile. We wave and smile and say "hello" lots. We have talked more in depth over fallen trees and clean up, sharing about their dogs, and helping find their cat. But we didn't know the wife had been sick recently.
The Pulmonaire van last week in front of the house one day nudged me and told me something was wrong. But, I did and do respect their privacy. I didn't just want to pop over and say, 'hey... do you guys need anything, I saw the air van.' That seemed too intrusive. I would wait for a good time to offer food or whatever I could offer.
This week, my next door neighbor called to ask if I knew. Knew what?!?! Obviously I didn't. I had no clue. I was clueless. (I often can be.) The mom had passed away last week (Thursday) and he was calling to tell me the visitation and service were that evening that he was calling. I am so glad he called! I hadn't read the paper in a few days because we had been out of town for the weekend. Sure enough, it was there.
My husband was working, but my daughter and I were able to go. We moved into the neighborhood when she was about 3 months old. She is now 12. Though we don't know the folks very well, I have gotten to know the kids (now grown) and have had conversations about life and school and passion (hey, I love those conversations even now as a retired educator). Great kids, great family. We spoke with both the "kids" and the dad briefly. Dad shared that he and the family lived life to the fullest each day and that was important in dealing with this now. They had made the most of every moment. In fact, he had words of admonition for my daughter to make the most of every day. Awesome!
That is beautiful! And, that brings me to Nouwen's devotion on "Living Our Passages Well". Living each moment to the fullest is important to living well. Life on this earth is a passage. Death is a passage.
Nouwen says it best, so I will let his words speak now:
"Death is a passage to new life. That sounds very beautiful, but few of us desire to make this passage. It might be helpful to realize that our final passage is preceded by many earlier passages. When we are born we make a passage from life in the womb to life in the family. When we go to school we make a passage from life in the family to life in the larger community. When we get married we make a passage from a life with many options to a life committed to one person. When we retire we make a passage from a life of clearly defined work to a life asking for new creativity and wisdom.
Each of these passages is a death leading to new life. When we live these passages well, we are becoming more prepared for our final passage."
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I have not lived all of these passages well. I have stumbled and fallen along the way. But, I have gotten back up and kept going. With the help of community-- friends and family-- and the help of my Creator. As I learn and grow, it is my desire to live these passages well, so that I am better prepared for my final passage.
As I reflect on this devotion and this week, I know that my neighbor has lived this passage well. She made the most of her time prior to the sickness and during it. I will miss her smiling face in the yard and as we pass on the road.
As we all live through life's passages in one form or another, may we live them well.
Blessings on your journey,