In the past several years, death has visited my family far too many times. My dad died of lung cancer in 2011. A couple months later my aunt Linda died at age 61 of a brain aneurysm. My mom died in her sleep of an apparent heart attack in 2014, and then three days later our goddaughter Lauren died at just nine months old. Aaron's mom died of pancreatic cancer three years ago. My grandmother died at age 99 eighteen months ago. My aunt Jean died last fall after years of various health issues.
Last night we sang at a Maundy Thursday service. For as long as I can remember, one of the anthems for the night is "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me." The words are by Paul Gerhart, and this particular arrangement is by Craig Courtney. It begins with men's unaccompanied voices, then the organ comes in. The second verse is sung by the full choir but it's still somewhat subdued. The third verse builds to a powerful crescendo. Then the fourth verse is a cappella and quite soft. Here are the words to that last verse:
In suffering be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side.
For the past four years, every time we sing those words all I can think is that I hope that is what death is like.
I hope it for my dad and Aaron's mom, who both suffered from that horrible disease, cancer.
I hope it for Linda, who was here one minute and gone the next.
I hope it for my mom, who wasn't ill when she died but had so much stress on her at the time.
I hope it for Lauren, who lived such a short life but touched us all so much.
I hope it for my grandmother who outlived her husband and both of her daughters.
I hope it for Jean who, once she made the decision to move to hospice care, was finally at peace.
Read the words again. If you're not Christian, replace "Jesus" with whatever higher power you believe in.