A Good Good-Bye

"Tree of Life" by Betsy Porter

A dear friend and mentor of mine passed away recently after a long struggle with dementia.  Although the disease took away many of the characteristics we loved about him, there was still something essential we felt in his presence until the very end.  His widow wrote in her remembrances of him that the only words he uttered in his final stage of life were “good”, “love” and “thank you”.  These three utterances said everything about him.  He was a man of deep love, goodness and gratitude.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all come to the end of our lives, with their multiple losses, still holding on to the things that anchor our true character as God’s children?  What would you want your last precious utterances to be?

And wouldn’t it be great if every church that closed could do so with clarity about its true mission from God.  On its last day together, a congregation could say not “We were…” but “We are…” because they would have preserved the essential core  of their character and would be carrying it forward into new ministry settings.

Here is a poem that was read at my friend’s funeral:

IN BLACKWATER WOODS by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have ever learned

in my lifetime

leads back to this:

the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

is salvation,

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

2 responses to “A Good Good-Bye

  1. Yes, so true and such a promise of the everlasting quality of God’s spirit within us even as the body wastes away. Mom’s final words in her last 3 days with no food and little water, whenever we would speak to her (who was unable to respond verbally much at all) were a spoken “Love you”, then a whispered “love”, then finally, a mouthed “love, love, love”. How simple but, like you said, essential, are the truly important things in life. As I fasted this week in preparation for The Response prayer gathering, I grew weaker after nearly 3 days, and the unessentials fled away, and the significance of “we are but a vapor”, and “in our weakness He is strong” resonated. My prayer is that my latter days will be MORE of Him as less of me becomes reality. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story.

  2. Thank you, Nancy for sharing yours. I remember when my mother died, the feeling of weakness that came over me, and yet how close God came. Fasting may be a good reminder of our vulnerability and God’s miraculous provision in the midst of scarcity and loss. Blessings to you.

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