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A Hospital Altar  

I recall my fourth trip to be with my mother in Ontario. Why? Because final conversations stay with us. She had returned to the hospital for the fourth time. She was facing the final stages of infirmity that are often twinned to 87 years of living. On this visit, she was alert, comfortable and talkative. We both recognized the situation and took time to say what mattered. We acknowledged that God held her days - not doctors, personal wishes or physical determination. There were decisions that demanded attention, but I resisted the distraction of action. I chose to sit, talk and listen. To receive from God whatever it was He wanted to give. To release to God whatever it was He chose to take.  

Many of you have walked this path with your loved ones. For others this is your future. At the bedside I noted that death is not a solitary issue. It brings a host of companions. Physical struggle, fear, confusion, hope raised and hope dashed, grasping for information, silence, family tensions, family support. Jesus sees all of this. When He cried at the grave of Lazarus, He wept not just about death, but also about the grief and turmoil death ushers in. We were not meant to die. We were created for life. Our design was shattered by sin - but is now restored and glorified by the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul says, we do not grieve as others grieve. We have cause for hope. He writes that we view glory through a dim glass. The brightness of what will be is hidden from us. But Jesus is the window through which we glimpse what God has in store. Since Jesus has conquered our greatest fear and threat, the hospital bed was a temporary tension which would release into something beyond description or understanding. But it will satisfy our deepest longings. Mom and I got to talk about heaven - not simply as a destination, but as fulfilment of what God intends for us.  

For your own soul, spend time this week thinking about death. Not in a morbid, fearful manner. Consider the fact it is appointed for all of us to die. Heed the wisdom of Psalm 90:12 and count your days. The desert fathers thought it was the kernel of wisdom to embrace the reality of our personal death. We are ready to live well only when we have considered our death. Take time to pray with God about death. You might want to talk to loved ones about the inevitable. Remember, this is not just preparation for death. When we face our morality we are ready to live.