She was dying. She’d beaten cancer back time and again. This time, she
raised her chin in the air and told everyone it was alright. No more cures
almost as bad as the disease. No fighting the inevitable. Because, ultimately,
life enfolds death. Not enemies, but friends showing one another the way to
She came to church last Sunday and she took my breath away. Weeks since I had seen her, the frailty was more than I could take in. But then I saw her shining
through, the same as always, smiling and glad to be with us. Love radiated from
this woman whose body shrank only to make room for her soul swelling with the
nearness of heaven.
We took communion and her wheelchair sat in the outside aisle where the entire
left side of the church passed as they returned to their pews. And as they passed they reached out. Women dropped kisses, light and airy as clouds on her
spotted hands, her dappled cheeks. Men gripped her shoulder—gently, oh so
gently. There were pats and squeezes. Whispered love words and eyes filled with
the groaning of the Holy Spirit.
Who placed her there? In that spot where the congregation would pass like a tide
coming in? It must have been Christ. It could only have been Christ.
They gave her communion last—held out the torn and tattered loaf for her to pinch off a bit of the Body. Throat cancer would have been a fine excuse to abstain. But she dipped the bread and placed it on her tongue. And she swallowed it down. And then she coughed and choked and had to be taken away to suffer. And isn’t that right? What could be harder to swallow so close to heaven? Christ waited around the corner and who wants to swallow the host when the HOST is waiting on the other side of the door.
That was Sunday. She died on Tuesday. She died with the echo of our voices singing the closing hymn in her ears. She died with the shadow of our hands and lips on her tissue skin. She died with Christ clasping her tight in His arms.
She died. And one day, we will, too. And won’t that be fine?