Make a joyful noise all the earth, break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Psalm 98:4
"My hope is to have a joyful death." That was my dad's response when asked by the palliative care nurse what his hopes were for this final chapter of his life. In our culture that idolizes youth and fights death at every turn, his response is a beautiful anomaly. Certainly, none of us wishes to hasten the arrival of our own final days. And, sadly death all too often comes suddenly and/or violently with no chance for reflection. However, if given the opportunity when it is our time, how will we choose to face the end of our earthly life?
Our usual response is simply not to talk about it; to pretend that we aren't all a step closer to death with each and every breath. However, my dad's response has been just the opposite. As has always been his style, he wants to talk about it. He has asked to talk with each member of our family alone - a chance to openly and honestly explore the language of our hearts. Together we listen, laugh, cry, sit silently and fumble for words. Through these conversations about his upcoming death, my dad is gifting us with an even deeper appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.
May we all experience the gift of both a joyful life and a joyful death - not as a denial of the very real struggles and sorrows that are an integral part of our earthly journey, but as a conscious decision to choose joy over sorrow, hope over despair and resurrection over death. As we continue the journey through Lent toward Easter Sunday, may we face the trials of our lives with resurrection joy in our hearts. Thanks, Dad, for the reminder...