Yesterday the matriarch of our congregation died, quickly and peacefully, with one of her daughters and two granddaughters by her side. I arrived at the hospital about an hour later to wait with them for the funeral home to come and take her body to prepare it for burial. It was a sad, but also a holy time, a time for giving thanks, as death can be, especially when the person who has died has lived a long, full life.
It has been said that death comes in threes, and this is the second one in our church in the last two weeks. This week I also spent some time with a woman who we thought was near death, but, thankfully, it seems like she's doing better and getting stronger. So maybe the third will wait a while yet.
Being a part of the end of life is one of the privileges of my role as a pastor, for it is a sacred journey to move from this life to the life eternal, and it's a blessing for me to do what I can to comfort those left behind. But it can also be sad and even sometimes emotionally draining, because I, too, share in the grief.
Today in my pregnancy yoga class I noticed this juxtaposition for the first time: I am, at this moment, literally a bearer of life, and that is a strange and wonderful thing to be in the midst of death.
At the beginning of this yoga class we go around the room and do a "check-in" so that people can share where they are in their pregnancy and how they are feeling. Most of the time it's complaints of swollen feet or back pain or trouble sleeping, combined with the elation of feeling the baby move, and anticipating (with mixed emotions) the birth process. Today when it was my turn, I shared that physically I feel fine, but that what I was carrying was mostly spiritual restlessness. I told them that I had lately felt surrounded by death, and yet I was also aware that I was in the process of bringing forth new life, and my emotions are swirling. So I warned them, "So if I burst into tears during pigeon pose, that's why," and the room full of equally hormonal women all nodded sympathetically, offering me their permission to break down if I needed to.
Well, I didn't break down. Instead, leaving yoga class, I felt this great sense of hopefulness from being surrounded by so much life. And an awareness and gratitude for both life and death which are part of my life, part of all human life and are each blessings from God.