Fridays are sermon writing days at home but since we have a guest preacher coming on Sunday I am at church Friday morning when the phone rings. Our parish administrator has stepped away from her desk so I answer the call. "Can you come and bring mom communion?" "Of course, how is one o'clock?" "Perfect," the daughter, Joyce, says.
Arriving at the house, Joyce is waiting for me outside. "It's not good, come on in." I'm surprised when she guides me upstairs. Entering the bedroom, Katherine, the mom and a beloved member of our church, is in bed . She's on oxygen and needs assistance sitting up. Pillows are lovingly positioned to support her by her daughter-in-law.
A month ago Katherine was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, two weeks ago we buried her husband. Katherine is in her eighties and beautiful. As sick as she is, she maintains an air of dignity, graciousness and matriarchy. She softly tells me she is dying and it is only a matter of days. She is at peace. As her last act of faith she wants to receive the sacrament of Christ's body and blood.
A tv tray is brought over by the bed and becomes our make-shift altar. I set it for communion. Katherine's daughter, daughter-in-law, and niece kneel on the floor at the foot of the bed. Like the women at the foot of the cross, they will not allow their beloved to die alone. The "holiest of holies" in the temple of Jerusalem could not have been more sacred than this bedroom. Grace fills it. The five of us know we are standing on holy ground and the veil between heaven and earth is profoundly palpable.
I read some verses from John's gospel, pray the prayers, and together we make Eucharist. I give a final blessing. Tears trickle as we say good-bye, all the while claiming the promise of everlasting life. Much sooner than expected, Katherine passes from this life into glory that night at 9:10pm.
In a few weeks we will have a burial service for Katherine. At the beginning of it I will say "I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though they die." Life in death. This is grace as I know it on Friday.