Dear Older Self,
At the same time that you are preparing for your final good-bye you may also find yourself preparing to say “hello” to heaven. You may find yourself preparing to surrender yourself finally and fully into God’s loving care.
I wish I could somehow midwife your dying. But how can I? I know nothing about death from personal experience. Perhaps the best I can do is to be like a midwife who has never carried a child. Maybe I can be like a midwife who has never felt the waves of contractions, who doesn’t know what it is like for her body to take over, but who has been a witness to both the pain of the process and the joy of anticipating the new life that is coming.
The least I can do is remind you of what you have witnessed as you spent time with others in their last days of life. I can help you remember the extraordinary gifts that are sometimes given to people as they prepare for this final letting go. You know people who have seen angels coming to wait with them and to carry them Home. You know people who have seen loved ones in the room with them, talking with them, offering them peace and companionship for the journey. You know people who have had experiences of thinking they died when they didn’t because they had just had a dream or vision of being in heaven. All of these gifts helped your loved ones who were dying to let go and rest in the loving care of their Maker.
I can also remind you about what you personally experienced as you sang hymns, read psalms and held the hands of loved ones breathing their last. I can help you remember the times when the room felt crowded with the Presence of a great Peace.
I can remind you that Jesus, whose tender love you have experienced, is a Friend who has walked through death to new life. Unlike me, Jesus is a midwife who knows the journey from personal experience. Maybe I can whisper in your ear a reminder to take the hand he holds out. Let him lead you through this strange and wondrous unknown we call death.
As a midwife, perhaps I can also encourage you to use imagery to assist you with the process of letting go and relaxing into God’s loving care. Remember how much the use of imagery aided your experiences of giving birth. Images of flowers opening, for example, helped you work with your body’s holy labor. In the same way, using imagery can help you with this holy labor.
You might use the image of yourself on a swing, moving back and forth between heaven and earth. Or you might use the imagery of leaning back in the safe and sheltering hand of God, as you are carried along a gently flowing river toward the glorious harbor that lies at the edge of the vast, peaceful ocean that is God’s heart of love. Or, perhaps, you might rest in the imagery of allowing yourself to melt into the embrace of God’s loving arms.
Dear older self, it is quite possible that you will experience some fear in the last days of life. There is no shame in this. When you find yourself struggling to rest in God’s love, I encourage you to remember that you can talk to God about your fears. And you can ask God for help. You can ask for any help you need.
Your dying is this life’s final opportunity to relax the tight muscle of pride and control so that you can melt into the enduring embrace of God’s steadfast love. These Arms of Love are held out to you even now. They are your Refuge, your True Home.
The good news is that you are loved. And you are invited to entrust yourself to the One who loves you. Your dying is another call, another invitation to say “yes”, to surrender, to trust and to rest in the love of your Creator.
It is love that has marked your path through every stage of life. This same love will be your guide in the final journey.
As you let go of life as you know it, embrace, ever so gently, this final surrender to Love.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com