For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones….
The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.
(Psalm 102: 3-5; 19-20.)
We all are mortal and one day, perhaps soon or perhaps many, many years from now, each of us will die. I began to contemplate my own mortality almost five years ago when my Dad passed away. He was a simple man without even a high school diploma, and he lived a very hard life. By the end, he was literally reduced to skin and bones, the terrible effect of cancer and a stroke after years of smoking and excessive drinking. But despite his flaws, and who among us doesn’t have them, he had a heart of gold, and he loved his children and his grandchildren more than life itself. On the morning of the day he died, he told his nurse that he was taking a trip. When she asked where he was going, he said, “I’m going upstairs today.” Now, I never thought of my Dad as a man of faith. In fact, as a young girl I often invited him to go to church with us, but he always declined, saying the roof would cave in if he went. He knew he was a sinner, and I believe he was ashamed. Imagine my joy, then, and my tremendous peace to know not only that my Dad was no longer in pain, but that he was prepared to meet his Creator.
Dear Heavenly Father, throughout this Lenten season let suffering – our own, that of our friends and strangers, and that of your Son on the cross – move us and remind us that life is short, and that we must do all that we can to live the lives you have called us to live, so that when our time comes we, too, can be prepared to “go upstairs.” Amen.