A member of my congregation entered the Church Triumphant early this week. He was elderly, his body was failing him, he was receiving hospice care.
One of the more daunting tasks of a pastor is to journey with people through illness and death. It’s a terrible privilege. Terrible because of the circumstances – terrible to be surrounded with grief, sadness, anger, doubt, fear. A privilege because you are allowed into to a sacred moment, where time almost stands still, where no one questions what is most important, because it is clear then what really matters in life.
Many people run away from scenes of death and dying as fast as their legs will carry them, and it may also be the first instinct of the pastor as well (we are human after all). But it is our call to enter into that space and provide the presence of God (not to BE God, but to represent faith, to be a sign that God has not and will never abandon us). Even after more than 19 years I struggle to find the words to say, though I know better. What matters then is the ministry of presence, of just BEING with another, because there really is nothing to say to make the situation better, to make the pain go away, to truly ease the fears.
In the end these are the things that matter: loving, being loved, a smile, holding hands, a hug, making a connection to another – BEING together. That is “wonder”ful, powerful, mysterious, and holy. It is how God is with us through the incarnation of Jesus, and what we are called to be for one another.