*“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want . . . yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit and wither can I flee thy presence . . . If I take the wings of the morning, and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. . . . when I awake, I am still with thee.”
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord . . . The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time on and forevermore.”
Last week I read these familiar scriptures to my sister, as she lay in her hospice bed.
I read, “Nothing shall separate us from the Love of God . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
Tender words about a God who loves us and walks with us through each of our darkest valleys. One who is present in our most painful losses and our aching hearts. I’ve read these comforting words at many bedsides through my years in ministry. But, at my sister’s, with childhood memories flittering through my mind and loss approaching, I felt out of my element. Still, the words calmed and quieted her.
Today, I turn again to them. Reminding myself that nothing can separate us from the love of God or each other, as I grieve my sister’s dying.
Our United Methodist Book of worship includes this verse at the time of burial. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labors for their deeds do follow them.”
Today, I think of my sister’s support when I went through a painful divorce, then encouragement when I went to seminary and moved on to ordination. I remember her presence at celebratory moments and her joy in finding the perfect gift, the perfect card. I’m reminded of how fiercely she fought for her daughter’s health, through many surgeries and hospitalizations. I remember the care she gave her community, and countless delectable bars made for ill or grieving neighbors, funeral luncheons, graduation receptions, wedding showers, and assorted other occasions. When I stopped to see her a few days earlier, on the way to my granddaughter’s graduation, she asked me if I was taking bars. She knew what I was suppose to be doing, even if I didn’t.
I take comfort in knowing that today my sister has moved beyond her years of illness, losses and heartaches. She is with the One who makes all things new, who offers water to the thirsty and makes tears of sorrow cease.
“And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new” . . . “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”
* Scripture passages in order are from Psalm 23:1,4;Psalm 139:7, 9-10,18;Psalm 121:1,8; Romans 8:18-19; Revelation 21:4;Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:5-7