Day 1 of 40

Dead for 3 days, we buried him.
"We commit his body to the ground and his soul to God."

I could not help but wonder, what if this third day was the day that "the dead in Christ shall rise first"? (1 Thes. 4:16) This moment. Right here, with us gathered around this grave?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mid-day I was asked, "Did you realize today is the first day of Lent?"

No. My thoughts have been else where... on a funeral.

It seems strangely appropriate.
We are remembering and hoping for the resurrection.

He often talked about the things he had seen:
the first family in the area with electricity,
the first phone,
his father's model T,
the 1939 World's Fair,
the names of everyone who attended school with him in the one room school house down the road...

He knew all about farming, plowing, milking, carpentry, cutting stone, storing ice from winter through summer...

90 years.
Living history is passing away.
I feel the loss of a day gone by.

At our neighborhood Christmas party, he looked a little tired. Still, he was strong and sharp. What a blessing to live healthy in mind and body up to the very last days! Even into his 80's, he worked the family stone quarry with his son.

90 years.

We read Psalm 90.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

What a strangely warm and beautiful day for February!
All sunshine, and no snow.

Coming to this familiar place is like stepping out of time.
Generations have stood on this same ground... what has changed?
much and little.

10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty,
(maybe even 90) if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Married 68 years... not enough.
Our hearts were created for more than this.

Desperate for words of comfort.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Is all "lost"?
Those with hope, grieve with hope... (1 Thes. 4:18, Phil. 1:21)
Those without hope... know only loss.

The hearse followed me for all but the last quarter mile of our back country roads as I drove to pick up my little one. In the solemn silence of those miles I pondered...
Death is behind me.
Not chasing me... it is conquered (1 Cor. 15:55)
I have already died and am truly alive. (Gal. 2:20)

Driving back to the church for lunch, I pray the words of the Psalm.

12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I sing, "No guilt in life, no fear in death..."
...because of Christ's death and resurrection,
the reason for this season we are entering.

"To live is Christ, to die is gain." (Phil.1:21)

Oh, Lord, I want to live well.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

After lunch, I went home with leftovers to prepare into freezable meals for the widow. That afternoon, I delivered my box along with soup and sandwiches. We had tea. And, thus begins the "new normal". How shall we live?

Rushing home to feed my family, I then dash off to visit another old country church, that of the kind preacher who conducted this morning's service. A heavy rope in the back is pulled to toll the bell; the service begins. In discussing "The Nine Tailors" this year with my children, I learned a great deal about the traditions of ringing in the year, the hour, a birth, a death. In the warm glow of the gas lit sanctuary, I pray, meditate, receive communion, and am exhorted to remember, ponder, consider, seek... I do.

"Lent" - Latin for "forty" ... This is Day 1.

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