We have had a number of opportunities to think about life & death over these past several weeks. These may not be welcome opportunities, but one can scarce listen to any news without an awareness of the fragility and finite nature of human life.
In a way, the amount of attention we have paid as a nation to the tragic deaths of two Canadian soldiers, bespeaks the relative peace, prosperity and security we live in compared to so very many people in the rest of the world. I do not, in any way, intend to trivialize these deaths, but I do think we need to name the reality of suffering for so many others.
There was one interview however, that particularly caught my attention. Listening to the radio on October 23rd, the day after the young soldier Nathan Cirillo, was killed at the War Memorial in Ottawa, the woman who ran to help him, just after he was shot, told her story. She said that she had just taken a picture of the two soldiers at the Memorial, thinking it was a pretty chilly day to be standing there in their kilts. She heard the gunshot and turned to see Cirillo down, and the gunman fleeing. She ran back to the Memorial and kneeling over Nathan Cirillo’s body, just told him over and over again that he was loved. He was loved by his own family, by his military family… With no assurance that he could hear her, or understand, or hang on to life as it ebbed out of him, she told him, “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.”
That got me thinking… What words would I want to hear before I die? Who would I want to hear them from?
And so, with an honest awareness that death is inevitable, though hopefully not imminent for anyone present today, I offer this question to you, and I invite you to just reflect in communal silence for a minute or so – What words would you want to hear before you die? Who would you want to hear them from?
Just allow yourself to close your eyes and take a few deep cleansing breathes and reflect on the questions: What words would you want to hear before you die? Who would you want to hear them from? (there may be several answers)
I invite you to gently draw your attention back to this room, and this time. If the questions have stirred up some memories or emotions for you, I encourage you to honour them, and take more time with them over the course of this day, or this week.
You have with you a name-place card. (You may go back for more if you wish.) On the front – I invite you to write the name of a loved one who has died. On the inside, write the words you want to bless them with – they may be words you had an opportunity to say to them before they died, or they may be words you wish you had been able to say to them. In either case, you have that opportunity now – let’s honour the writing process with some quiet time for you to reflect and to write.
(We concluding the sermon time with a liturgy by Joyce Rupp, called Remembering our Spiritual Ancestors, from her book ‘out of the ordinary’