Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Where's Will

I have not made an entry in the blog for quite a while. On Columbus Day weekend, when I would normally have been celebrating my wife's birthday, I was with her attending the wake and funeral for her step-grandfather. At the wake her father was in a lot of pain as he stood in the receiving line. This was not a good sign. Last winter he coughed up blood and was diagnosed with lung cancer. He underwent chemotherapy in the spring and summer and in August they said the cancer was in remission. The pain meant that the cancer was back.

They started radiation therapy on my father-in-law but they eventually discontinued it because it wasn't working. On Friday, November 3, Lynn went out to be with him. They admitted him to the hospital that day. Early on Tuesday morning, election day, he died.

I haven't had the time or inclination to write much in my blog during this time. What I have had is numerous opportunities to meditate on mortality. This is a practice that a number of traditions recommend from time to time and I have certainly felt it to be useful. I have also been thinking about Elias Hicks who was at times invited to attend funerals on which occasions he often spoke about the need to be attentive to ones spiritual live and to prepare oneself so that you would not be caught short if you were called to account suddenly. I have been thinking about how suddenly changes in our health or condition can happen. Once that happens, there may be things we can no longer do, no matter what our intentions had been. With our improvements in health care, we don't encounter death as often as we used to. While this is a good thing, I wonder if it leaves our spiritual lives lacking in some respects. I know that when I am grieving, I find my heart opened and made tender in ways that don't happen in the normal course of my life. I also have a natural predilection to procrastination so I find it helpful to be reminded that I only have a limited amount of time to practice faithfulness in this life. In the writings of early Friends it often seems that the way in which one died was seen as a reflection on the way in which they lived. Many Quaker journals end with an addendum which describes the nature of the persons death and whatever their last words were. They are often careful to describe the peace that the dying person seemed to have found.

I have no great conclusions today. I will just leave you with this poem I wrote a few weeks ago:

In old fall
when the last flash of color
has fallen to the frost
and the world is wrapped in gray,
When death rattles the windows
and cold seeps under the doors,
Then whatever harvest you have gathered
must be already brought in
and your treasure laid up.
Time is no more for increase
and you must depend
on what you have laid by
To carry you through the frozen days of winter
and the weary days of March
To whatever resurrection awaits.

Blessings to all.



Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am the same anonymous who put a note some days ago on your last entry. Although I hardly know you I hope it is all right to say that I am very sorry to hear about the losses of your wife's step-grandfather and your father-in-law.

I had written something to you but this article I found today expresses more succinctly my thoughts. I hope this is okay that I share this.

For centuries, friends, family and even passersby would gather in the bedroom while the dying person said final goodbyes, asked forgiveness and received sacraments. After death, bodies were laid out in parlors while people visited.

In the 19th Century, that began to change in the United States.

The modern hospital came into being. Caring for the dying at home began to seem dirty and unpleasant.

In prosperous Western societies, medicine and hygiene largely eliminated childhood death, once mankind's most common encounter with mortality. Death disappeared into medical institutions.

As far as the community is concerned, "You don't see anything," said Daniel Callahan, director of the International Program at The Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank.

But privacy has come at a price.

"We lost something as a culture," said Beth Burbank, who trains chaplains for Vitas Innovative Hospice Care. "We got less and less comfortable with death."

Understanding fear of death | Chicago Tribune

The more control we have over what we experience, the more we (not you in particular, but all of us, all Westerners) choose to put unpleasantness away from ourselves (how isolated a Western man or woman may be who must give round-the-clock care to a chronically ill or disabled child or parent!), the less compassion we seem to have for those who despair.

We say, they must pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Their conditions in life are due to their failings. It is a moral failure, this lack of self-sufficiency. They have eaten the wrong foods, chosen the wrong job, they are weak of spirit. We must despise them for we have transcended their uselessnesses. We think the storm does not fall on both the rich and the poor; it destroys the despicable only, just as a tornado seems to target the mobile homes.

But how lonely and naked we all are in the end nevertheless -- all of us!

God grant us the tenderness we seek in difficult hours.

November 21, 2006 4:02 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...


I am at last able to make the "blog rounds" and came across this post... I'm sorry to read about the journey that you, your wife, and your many loved ones have been traveling recently.

At the same time, it sounds like you are not rushing your wife's process or your own.

You are in my thoughts...

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

December 03, 2006 11:20 PM  

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