Today the Daily Office reading that caught my attention was from the Old Testament.
In Deuteronomy 31 we have reached the point in the story where Moses must hand over power to Josuha as God has made it clear that Moses will not live to cross the Jordan into the promised land.
For some reason the assigned reading skips the most poignant part of this story. Not only has God already told Moses he will die soon, but God keeps referring to Moses’s imminent demise throughout the conversation between God, Moses, and Joshua.
Earlier this year my mother died. I was with her through her final weeks as she slowly released each of her responsibilities as she found she could no longer do them. The one she held on to the longest was co-ordinating Speaking to the Soul and while she did not want to give it up, she reached the point that she just wasn’t mentally able to work that used to be easy for her. Letting go was made easier because a new editor volunteered and Mom got to see that the project would carry on with out her.
Still, it seemed to me that the hardest part of the process of dying for Mom, was when she reached the point where she had given up all of her responsibilities and regular interaction with friends.
Reading the passage from Deuteronomy, I wonder if that is how Moses felt in this time of transition. The time of his death had been appointed. He was, with God’s encouragement, giving up his primary role and was seeing something he had been involved with for most of his adult life moving on without him.
As my mom was going though the same process, I was impressed with her strength and grace. Yes, she was mad this was happening to her, but she never took that anger out on me or Dad as we cared for her. She took care to let go of things when she could no longer do them and kept her own failing powers from sabotaging projects she loved. She didn’t hang on until the bitter end and that made the end more full of grace.
In reading, Moses had one last job to do before he died. At God’s direction, he wrote the Song of Moses and he and Joshua, together, recited it to the people.
He did his last job to the best of his ability and didn’t rail against his fate or sabotage the succession of Joshua to his place.
Once the recital was finished, God told Moses to Mount Nebo where Moses would die and be gathered to his kin.
Having seen my mother give up one responsibility after another, all of them things she had loved doing, it did not surprise me that she died only a few days later. Maybe it should not then surprise me to see Moses make a similar end.
I will always miss my mom. I think of her every day. However, one of many great gifts she gave me was living into having the grace to let go. She, like Moses, did her last jobs and then left us to be gathered in with all those who went before.
All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.