So much has happened in the world and in my own personal life since I last blogged at the beginning of 2014. The major reason for my hiatus was the loss of my brother Mickey Patrick+ who died of cancer in February. He shared his diagnosis with me shortly after receiving it on January 2nd and I was able to visit with him several times while he received treatment at the Cross Cancer Centre in Edmonton.
Unfortunately the cancer had quite overtaken him and palliative care was all that was left so he returned to his home in Hay River, NWT to die. My sister and I drove he and his wife to the airport knowing that barring a miracle this was our last goodbye. It was very difficult to say the least. Long and short of it was that though we lost our brother in the process of his dying, he gave us some very significant gifts. The first was reconnection with him after years of not only having distance separating us but also having a somewhat distant relationship. This January we were given the opportunity to say the significant words that needed to be said. This brought us peace in our loss. The second gift was connection with his wife, children and grandchildren. This gift lives on and it will be up to us to nurture this connection and make these relationships a significant part of our lives overcoming chronic shortage of time and of course, distance. I pray that we can do this, as it is very easy to let time and distance rule without deliberate intentional action to nurture relationships. That is true for all of our relationships.
So as I reflect on this important farewell in my life…I only had one brother…I return to the scripture verse which I was reflecting on as we stood on the threshold of 2014. “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;…” (1 Peter 3: 14-15) So where is the hope? So quickly it feels that despite being assured that I could face the new year with courage I came face to face with the greatest of my fears–death, loss and separation.
Now as we stand just past the mid-point of the Great Fast I have personally become aware of my many limitations. The greatest of these limitations in life is that fact that we never have enough time–and ultimately we run out of time, when our time on this earth ends. C.S. Lewis said that the very fact that we complain about this limiting factor in our life speaks directly to the fact that we are destined for eternity. We were not created for time. We were not meant to die. Death came as a result of our decision to sin and break our relationship with God. Our faith tells us that Christ died so that this relationship with God could be re-established and we could live. Yet in this life we still must face the reality of death despite our hope in the great mystery of our faith which is life beyond death, as by Christ’s death He conquered death. Sometimes it is hard to keep the faith, when we face the grim reality of our mortality, however.
Recently, as we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation on the Gregorian calendar I was struck by the One who is limitless, coming into our world of limitations, becoming one of us, He submitted himself to the ultimate limiting factor–death–only to remain limitless. But as the Feast-day Divine Liturgy progressed it also struck me that He also, through the power of that same Holy Spirit who was present at the Annunciation, allows His Divine limitlessness to take the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist, to be consumed by us sinners. Through our prayer, the power of his mercy and grace, as well as our efforts to follow Him, He can transform us to His likeness as He becomes a part of us every time we receive Him in the Eucharist.
Oh my…why do we so often miss the truth of this gift and its power it has to transform our lives–changing our limitations, to limitlessness; our humanity into divinity. Yes we will still experience death, but we hold fast to the promise that like our Saviour we can move through death to life. This starts here and now as we grow to overcome sin in our lives and ultimately the effects of this transformation will be complete and eternal, as death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ. This is our hope!
Somehow as parents we need to assimilate this great mystery into our own lives–clinging to this great love, this great gift of God and then communicating it to our children. This is what makes the celebration of the Divine Liturgy central in the life of our family. This is why we don’t miss church–it is a lifeline. (Not because there is some law somewhere that says we should attend every Sunday–that is a very thin reason at best to get us away from other activities that often seem much more pleasurable.) Hopefully we can work at communicating this life changing reality in a very tangible and visual way as we walk through the Great Fast as a family and in particularly as we experience the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection throughout Holy Week.
The pain of loss and separation at death is real. Suffering through our many limitations in this life is real. But our hope lives on–because of Christ. Vichnaya Pamiat dear brother, may you live on in the eternal and ever-present memory of our limitless, Divine Saviour Jesus Christ!