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.