Dear ones, I’ve been rather quiet of late, and I know I owe you several updates. The first one is that I’m home from a weeklong trip to Jacksonville, Florida, where I had the great privilege and honor of being in the room with my grandfather last Tuesday, when he passed into eternal life. My grandfather was — and is! — an amazing man, known and loved by many. Of course, death brings us all pain and struggle, even when we think we are ready for it, and I was heartily glad to see his pain come to a close. On the morning of the memorial service, I sat down to write the poem that had been composing itself in my head all week, and when I shared it with the assembled family that evening after dinner, you could have heard a pin drop.
Today I stood in the presence of God
I held Isaac’s hand as he lay on the altar
I looking into the eyes of Moses as he was led
from a place of great suffering, into the promised kingdom.
I anointed the body of Jesus with oil
me — a sinner! — with my undeserving hands,
and I tried not to weep as I held his feet.
These were the feet of Abraham, the patriarch,
who watched his family grow from three children to a tribe,
and I watched his eyes as I rubbed his feet
strong feet that supported him through a long life of work
of laughter, of pain, of hardship, of joy.
These were the hands of Paul, the apostle, the tentmaker
who lived in great faith through troubling times,
and I held those hands once supple and strong
now curled uselessly, grasping toward life;
I massaged his fingers, his hands, his wrists
marveling at these hands that had held his children
had played with his grandchildren
had embraced his great-grandchildren.
This was the body of Jesus, the sufferer, the savior
who yielded to the will of the Father
even though this meant humiliation, pain, and death,
who promised his blessing to all who comfort the sick
who feed the hungry, who visit the imprisoned,
because when we comfort or feed or visit,
we do all these for Jesus,
and I watched his body struggle
fighting against pain, railing at the unfairness and indignity
of suffering, naked and humiliated,
at the end of his full and vital days.
And then, the patriarch’s voice faded
Abraham’s feet ceased their journey
Paul’s hands unclenched, relaxed
and the eyes of Moses dimmed
as he apprehended the Promised Land.
All the men living in this body were gone;
I knew that I stood on holy ground
and I wondered if I should take off my shoes.
The burning bush was stopped, extinguished.
The pain, the struggle, the suffering were gone.
The man who had lived in this body for ninety-four years
had moved on, to join with Isaac and with Moses
with Abraham and Jesus and Paul,
was living in the Kingdom of Light,
the Promised Land,
a land flowing with living water
the tree of life, the bread of heaven
the land of bliss
where one day he will greet us and welcome us
to the Kingdom of God.
Good-bye, Grandpa. I know you can see and hear me, and I know that you know that I love you. Rest eternal grant to you, and let light perpetual shine upon you.