Someone in my family is very ill. I had done some research and posted a beautiful quotation from the Bible here but find that, due to subsequent events, it will be better if I remove those kind and beautiful words.
Sometimes I take this literally, but more often figuratively. Either way, I think it's beautiful and it does sum up much of what I want and feel:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4) (NIV)
This week both All Saints Day and All Souls Day took place. Just now I came across this Litany of All the Saints, by William MacKaye. Living as we do in a time of great deceit and hypocrisy, it is good to be reminded of so many heroic figures. May their example help to revive our own spirits and hope.
Often I feel not-too-good when awakening in the morning. The Dalai Lama apparently recommends that we face our new day like this:
Every day, think as you wake up, "Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive, I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can."
My father has now been gone for nine days. The world has continued on, scarcely noticing his absence. My own wish is not to resume normal life just yet. I want to stay with my grief, to stay with his memory, for yet some time.
As part of that effort, I've been trying to recite the Mourner's Kaddish each day. I am not Jewish, my father was not Jewish, and yet this feels right to me.
I was pleased to find this short article about the experience of three daughters in saying Kaddish for their father during the first eleven months after his death. My experience won't be the same, since I will not be part of a kehillah. Still, I hope that saying Kaddish will help me to stay for a longer time with my father's presence and memory.
During the week of February 21st, my family and I knew that my father was dying. He passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, February 27, exactly one week ago today. In the last week, then, we have been attending to funeral arrangements, an obituary, visits, a wake, a funeral, and finally a burial.
During the first few days of the week which we knew would be his last, we sought to make my father comfortable. I tried to reassure him that we would remain with him, and would make sure that he had everything he could possibly need. He seemed comforted by this reassurance and he seemed to enjoy the presence of his wife and various, shifting combinations of his six children in his room. It was a level of company and activity which had once been normal for him but rare in recent years.
After those few days, he slept more and seemed to recede from us. Although I occasionally tried to offer the same reassurances, they no longer felt right. He no longer seemed there to receive them. My speaking directly to him seemed, in fact, almost to agitate him, as though I were calling him away from a task he needed to complete, from a direction in which he needed to go.
At that point, however, I still had a need to speak. And so I turned at last to the religious tradition in which we had all been raised. I found some Catholic prayers for the dying and took them to my father's room. In the afternoon, I placed my hand on his unconscious shoulder and read:
I commend you, dear Daniel, to the almighty God. I give you over to the care of Him whose creature you are.
A bit further on, the prayer continued:
When, therefore, your soul shall depart from your body, May the glorious armies of the Angels meet you. May the court of the Apostles receive you. May the triumphant band of glorious Martyrs come out to welcome you. May the splendid company of Confessors clad in their white robes surround you. May you meet with a blessed rest in the embrace of the Patriarchs.
Near the end, the prayer continued:
Let the heavens be opened to him. Let the angels rejoice with him. Let the archangel St Michael conduct him, for you have appointed him chief of the heavenly host. Let the holy Angels come out to meet him. Let them bring him to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The final words were these:
Into your hands, Lord, we commit the spirit of your servant Daniel. (Luke 23.4)
O Lord Jesus Christ, receive his spirit (Acts 7.59)
Holy Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, defend him from the enemy and receive him at the hour of death.
These were the words and thoughts in which my father had been schooled from his earliest days, as indeed I had been myself. They seemed just right for the solemn occasion on which I recited them. If my father was able to hear them, I am sure they comforted him. Whatever my belief, or even the state of my belief, I have to say that they comforted me as well.
I hope that the heavens were opened to him, that the Archangel Michael conducted him, and that the Angels brought my father to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem.
This morning these words have come to me unbidden: "There is no health in me." They come from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer --
I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and I have done those things which I ought not to have done. And there is no health in me.
The General Confession continues, however, as follows:
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon me, miserable offender. Spare me, O God, I who confess my faults. Restore me when I turn to you according to your promises that you have declared to me in Christ Jesus, my Lord.