Monday, January 1, 2018

A Prayer For A Happy Death

My church tradition does not include the veneration of the saints; in fact, according to some of the things I've read over the years, it has been regarded as idolatry, and preached against as a sin.

I'm sure that at one time in my hot-tempered youth, I was adamantly against such a thing as asking a saint to pray for me. I was adamantly against a lot of things in those days, as young people with hot blood often are. 

I believed then, as I do now, that I had direct access to God, and that I did not need any intermediary to plead my case before Him. More specifically, I believed that I had direct access to God the Father, and that any intercession on my behalf was done by Jesus, God the Son. And I hope I may receive your pardon if, at that time, I did not fully understand the complexities of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Ain't real sure I comprehend it now, to be honest with you. I just know it as a probably-unknowable concept.

Today, I have a fairly systematic theology, but I never argue about any of it. That's because most of it doesn't really matter in most cases. It's true, the system I've developed over the years explains a lot of things that were mysteries to me in the past, and it's also true that some of what I believe directly contradicts some of the things I was taught in Sunday School when I was little; other parts of my theology provide a rationale for what are otherwise impenetrable truths. As far as I know, however, they aren't a part of any doctrinal statement of any religious institution anywhere.

It only comes up when I am talking to my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA; or when I am reading the Bible with Kenneth and Alicia; sometimes, in my conversations with Uncle Mylon.

I don't feel the need to proclaim my self-invented doctrine further, though; first, because they are just my ideas, and second, because they pale in comparison to a certain truth which IS important: Jesus is THE Hostage Release Team; He died to set us free, so we can go Home to be with our Father, Who loves us. It's all TOTALLY about love. That will always and forever be the basis of what I do and think and believe; and if I find myself doing, thinking, believing something in conflict with that, I need to change.

It's not a very convoluted belief system. It's pretty egalitarian; everybody needs it, nobody can earn it, it's love. Nobody has an inside track, there is no provision for influence peddling or special favors.

But today, with my brother-in-law struggling to breathe, and my sweet and brave baby sister sitting beside him, holding his hand, telling him she is there with him, and that she loves him, while the alarms are going off on the monitors for his PO2 and heart rate;

Today I understand the comfort I would take in praying to Saint Joseph, the Patron Saint of Happy Death.  Today, if I had been raised in that tradition,  I would promise to perform acts of charity to honor Saint Joseph, who died in the presence of his wife Mary and his son Jesus. I would ask him to reach out and take Chuck's hand, and lead him across the River Jordan into the Promised Land.

I just don't think it works that way. I believe God hears us pray, in our pain, and fear, and ignorance, and that He answers us in His love.

And I've been praying for a smooth transition for Chuck; that he not keep having to fight for breath, that he be able to relax, and rest, and sleep, as Wendy holds his hand, and whispers to him of her love; and in that sleep, he quietly transitions from this death into LIFE.

And beyond that, I can do nothing; except to be ready to provide support for Wendy in the future. That's all I can do; that's all I must do, and it's enough.

(But, I think I snuck in a little prayer to Saint Joseph anyway, mostly because doing it was a little bit of comfort to me. )

Peace be on your household.