The Morning Call
Jan. 21, 2018
Are we there yet? You may remember saying that. You may remember how slowly time moved. Your fullness of life was ahead of you. You perceived your days as plodding on. Toward fullness. That perception was your reality.
Fullness came. Too busy to notice? You became used to time’s movement, perceived usually as neither slow nor fast.
Now in my 81st year, time flies. In two-week increments.
I create as a volunteer a newsletter for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem. I named it newSpin. Alternate Thursdays are my deadlines. They come by quickly. I work slowly. It may take me four times as long to do something I could have done quickly and efficiently years ago. How about you?
For the past 12 years, I have been invited to serve as priest-in-charge at a bayside Episcopal church and a residence a few steps from the beach in Longport, New Jersey, the Church of the Redeemer. Those two weeks pass like two days.
And, of course, I am “nearer my God to thee.” Every day is a gift.
“The contemplation of one's own death is an ancient part of spiritual practice,” writes Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. “It helps us become braver, because the things of which we refuse to think don't go away meekly -- they just go underground, where they grow more potent and more frightening than they really are.
“Death will be part of your life, just as birth was. Get used to it. Don't be afraid to think about it. You won't have much say in where and how death will come to you, but you do have a lot to say about who it is who will do the dying.”
I know that today is the only today I will ever have. I struggle to make it matter. I write a lot, hoping what I say – perhaps this column – may be useful to someone.
I’ve been helped by encouragement received from readers.
On a Saturday morning in 1994, I posted a story online in response to a request from a writer in New Hampshire, prompted by a quote posted a few days earlier by a writer from New Mexico.
Later that day, a writer from New York thanked me for posting the story. He said a friend from Bellingham Washington sent it to him. "It's exactly what I needed to wrap up my sermon tomorrow," he wrote.
The miracle of the Internet is that something good may have happened for someone in a church in Aurora NY because someone in Bellingham WA felt that a story someone in Bethlehem PA told in response to a request from someone in Keene NH prompted by a quote posted by someone in Albuquerque NM was worth copying for a wider cyberspace public. That hooked me into writing online.
Former Vice-President Joe Biden lost his wife and one-year-old daughter in an automobile accident soon after his first Senate win in 1972. Nearly three years ago, he lost his 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer.
He now tells people dealing with grief, “The day will come when the memory of the person you lost brings a smile to your lip before a tear to your eye.”
I often hear someone say at the death of a loved one, something like, “Dad is now happy with Mom, and I will soon be with them and my beloved husband.”
Though I cannot imagine life with God to be a recreation of the love I have experienced here, I am not critiquing that way of looking at death. My theology moderates such imagination. At times, I wish it did not. It might be more comforting than simply letting go and letting God
This I know, however, that if I can’t say what the afterlife is I can’t say what it isn’t.
Soon after I die and reach another “time fulfilled” when time is absorbed into eternity, I want what people remember of me – soon enough – to bring a smile to the lips of my loved ones before it brings tears to their eyes. When that happens, it may mean as well that the lives we lived even made God smile. Are we there yet? Imagine that.
Canon Bill Lewellis, firstname.lastname@example.org, an Episcopal priest, retired since 2010 served on the bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the bishop’s staff of the RC Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that. His newSpin newsletter may be found at http://diobeth.typepad.com/diobeth_newspin/