by Carole Reardon
Have you ever had the privilege of a final conversation, where both parties knew it was final?
I lost my friend, Jeff, almost nine years ago. We had a private conversation the night before he died. He had accepted his impending death; I was still in the deep end of denial. But we had the opportunity to say things to each other, important things that often get lost in the chaos and good intentions of everyday life. It was a gift from God, I am sure of it.
A few years later, Paul and I were driving away from St. Christopher’s one Holy Week, and the reading had been Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. We’ve known death, Paul and I, and it struck us both afresh: here was Jesus, knowing what would happen the next day, spending the last night he will have on this earth with the rag-tag followers who have collected around him, loved him and been guided by him. They are still pretty oblivious, but he knows he has one final opportunity to teach them, leave them with something unforgettable. After all the long months, the healing, preaching, teaching and revelations are ending for him – think of his sense of urgency! He’s leaving his ministry to them to sustain the next day. There will be no do-overs. What is the most important thing he must convey, if his work is to bear fruit?
Humbling himself before them, deaf to their protestations, he performs the task of the lowliest household servant, explaining – pretty directly, in John 13:1-17 – they are to humble themselves, abandoning the notion of master and servant, and serve one another. Their Teacher, their Rabbi, the one they are pretty sure is the Messiah, kneels before them and washes their feet. They are shocked, indignant, and I’m doubtful at this point in the story if any of the disciples yet have a clue what the morning will bring.
Much of the last conversation I had privately with Jeff the night before he passed this life was light; from the depths of my denial, I was determinedly entertaining. With his enduring patience with me, Jeff grew serious, made me shut up and listen, and told me things I needed to know, or he needed to say, sometimes both were the same. It was and is a blessing which has sustained me since. He understood what the new day was bringing, how hard I was resisting it, and left me with lessons I could access when he was gone.
What were the days and conversations like for the disciples afterward? We know they were largely in hiding. How many times must they have gone over that final night? Told and re-told each other the last words, analyzing and deciphering? Then comes the glorious news: He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!
And so they went out, humbly, teaching and spreading that great Good News, thanks be to God.
Photo by author.
Carole Reardon is a blogger and photographer in North Central Texas, attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Prosper, Texas.