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Knock, Knock, Knockin' On Heaven's Door

For a while now, some separate walks in my life have had me in a state of watching and waiting for death.  Even this afternoon, as Chrissie readied to go out for the afternoon, she said, "You're on a death watch, aren't you?"  Sadly, I am.

First, at home I watch and wait for my beloved elderly pup, Tobias, to find a way to his heavenly reward.  For some time now I have laid down next to him to hold him and say, "Bi-bi, I've told God its okay for you to come; I'm telling you its okay to go".  He is old.  A common belief is that 1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years.  While not quite accurate since dogs reach adulthood within the first couple of years, I found a formula from a canine expert that seems a bit more reasonable.  The formula is: 10.5 dog years per human year for the first 2 years, then 4 dog years per human year for each year after.  Well Tobias, aka Mr. Bag-o-Bones, is well into his 17th year (I'll say he's 16.5 years old) so doing the math, he is 79 in human years.  (Okay, don't hit me if you're in your seventies.)  I admit I am selfish - I want him to lie down, go to sleep, and then wake up in Heaven.  If he could tell me in definitive terms that he hurts, that he is tired, and he is ready to go, I would gladly help on his way.  I believe God holds a very special place for my Tobias, and sometimes I feel I am holding him back.
This morning at coffee hour, a dear friend who is ailing himself in a severe way, told me his own sweet pet is not long from passing on.  With a scheduled appointment tomorrow with the veterinarian, I know my friend is facing the reality of euthanizing his dog.  I could see the sorrow etched in his face, and I could hear the pain in his voice.  I offered him my cell phone number and told him to call me if he needed help.  Sadly, there is the very real concern that when the dog goes, the emptiness left behind may be more than he can handle.  I can only hope and pray for both of them.

Finally this afternoon, I called to check in with my Stephen Ministry care receiver who is under Hospice care, facing his own end of life situation.  My experience with him has mostly been a ministry of presence, to be with him as a member of his faith community at Grace Church.  I take him copies of church service bulletins, sermons preached by the clergy or seminarians, and offer him Home Communion.  During this past week, it had been difficult to be in contact due to the seemingly rapid changes in his condition and care.  Every time I called, his wife answered while in the middle of some issue that needed tending to.  Each time, I said I would call again later, but then I began to feel uncomfortable from always interrupting at the worst possible time.  Today, she made the point to say she needed my help understanding what Grace Church does for its members at the time of death.  Thankfully, I was serving at the 5pm service, so I was able to seek guidance from Mother A.  It is hard to try share information to plan liturgies with someone who is not of the same faith community.

So I watch and I wait and I pray.  I do not fear death.  In fact, I believe in healing through death.  For me, that means all which was fragile, ailing, and infirmed is healed through death and made whole and complete again.  Pain is no more.  God transforms what we knew of life in this earthly realm, and makes so much more of what it will be in that next life in heaven.  So I pray for us and our Tobias, for my friend and his pet, and for my care receiver and his family.  May we all know the healing grace of God, and take comfort in it.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servants with thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.  Amen.