When a Celtic army went in to war every warrior put a stone on a cairn. If he survived the encounter he removed his stone. In this way the Celts were quickly & accurately able to calculate the number of their dead.
Life isn't permanent. Three score years & ten unless by reason of your strength they be fourscore. Do you ever think of the moment when life as you know it ends & the next life begins? Does it frighten you? Perhaps you don't think about it at all. Plenty don't. Ready or not Death is coming for each & every one of us, for some of us rather sooner than later. I know it will be an interruption. There will be stuff left unfinished: the washing up still in the sink; the poem half done; cats waiting to be fed...
Someone else will go round & catch up the scattered threads & tidy them away. If I am blessed it will be someone who loves me enough to forgive me the quirks & the mess; someone who knows me well enough to leave a timely note on my blog then collapse it completely; someone who knows me well enough to have Be thou my Vision played [& how would that be on the bagpipes?! ☺], the 23rd Psalm read & lots of contemplative silence. Probably need it after the bagpipes.
We have lost the art of walking through the Valley of the shadow. Death, for most of us, is not so well known as it used to be when people died at home far more often & far younger. We tuck our dying out of sight in nursing homes & hospitals & if they are lucky we visit them occasionally.
I have thought about this a bit, on & off, since my father died because the thing that struck me then, & strikes me now, is what use is our religion if it does not sustain us in moments like this? Either the promises are true or none of it is true. Either God is there for us in our extremity or He is not there at all. And if it is not true & God is not there for us then, then what have we been doing?
I came home alone after my father died, emotionally exhausted, not having had time to process any of the grief & as the mother of many with too many pressing needs at home to give a lot of thought to anything but the next thing that needed doing. What I desperately wanted more than anything else was quiet, my own room, my battered bible with pages missing & a chance to speak with the Lord. I opened, as I so often do, my bible randomly & my eyes immediately fell on this verse in psalms:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy habitation.
I felt so loved.
Hearing is the last sense to go. I hope that as I shuck of this mortal coil for the imperishable body the last thing I hear is someone with enough nonce about them to quote the promises that have sustained me for a lifetime: In my father's house there are many mansions...I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also...Surely goodness & mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ~ & I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I've staked my life on the promises being true. I expect them to sustain me as I am wrenched through the very gates of Life. So
Do not stand at my grave & cry...
I am not there. I did not die. Mary Frye