I am writing this week from my parent’s house on the Oregon Coast. I’ve been down helping my Dad care for my Mom for the past two weeks. This week she entered hospice care.
Uncertainty is all around me.
I am wondering if I am feeling like the disciples felt when Jesus told them:
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
The disciples had seen Jesus doing miracles. They had seen him make the lame walk, free the demon-ridden, and bring Lazarus back from the dead. Suddenly he’s telling them that he will be betrayed, beaten, spat upon and killed and that it will all happen very soon, when they come to Jerusalem.
None of them really knew what was going to happen. They had the words of Jesus but had not yet experienced the reality of his time death and resurrection.
I face my mother’s inevitable death but I don’t know when or how it will occur. Like the disciples I have been told what is to come but I have no actual experience of the reality. I won’t know it until I meet it.
My Dad has been studying Buddhism for years, working to let go and live with impermanence. It has revealed his wise, kind, gentle self. I’m doing my own best to live in the moment and not worry about what is to come. This is made easier by being with my parents and being able to help from moment-to-moment.
Jesus disciples were able to stay with him until he was betrayed and taken into custody. From that moment on they could only be onlookers as Jesus was taken around the city, shuttled from authority to authority until he came before Pilate and was condemned to death by the crowd.
It is that way with my mother. She has started a journey that I can not join her fully in. I can stay by her physically and help where I can, but I can’t truly understand how she is feeling and where her spirit is going.
She has always been good about living in the moment, it is natural to her. I’m trying to follow both my parent’s examples and not worry about the future, but be fully present now.
Maybe like me, some of the disciples tried to live in the moment when they realized their remaining time with Jesus was short.
Based on the story of the betrayal, none of them were really prepared for the end when it came. The moment in the garden when Jesus was taken from them seems to have come as shock, even though he told them in advance that it was coming.
In the past, when I have read the gospel passages where Jesus tells the disciples about his death to come and the resurrection that is to follow, I have had the luxury of focusing on the resurrection. The resurrection has been a fact of my faith since I first learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday School.
My mom’s entry into hospice care reminds me that the disciples didn’t know how their time with Jesus would come to an end. Even though he told them he would rise again in three days they didn’t really accept it.
We see that in the moment when they didn’t believe Mary Magdalene when she told them she had seen Jesus resurrected. Nor were they any more open to the idea when the two disciples saw him next.
According to the Gospel of Mark, it was only when Jesus appeared to all eleven of them and told them to: ‘go out into the world and proclaim the good news’ that they believed.
To me, the story of the disciples in the lead up to the death of Jesus shows me how very human it is to not really comprehend a thing until it is actually happening.
There is a huge uncertain gap between theory and practice. My mom and I had many discussions about death after she was diagnosed but now that we are walking the actual walk much that seemed certain is no longer so.
What does give me comfort, is the fact that the disciples, for all their faults, fears, and disbelief managed to muddle through it all.
If they could do it, so can I. I will live on ‘in sure and certain hope of the resurrection’, one of my favorite phrases in our Book of Common prayer.
Even more so, it is my hope that I will be able to live on in my mom’s example. To live as fully as I can in the moment, to let the future take care of itself, to speak truth to power, and to try to make the world we live in now a better place and not wait for the hereafter.
All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway.
A pdf of the Book of Common Prayer which contains both the lessons for Sundays and the Daily Office can be found at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/book_of_common_prayer.pdf
Mission Clare is a good resource for daily morning and evening prayer online.
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.
photo (c) Kristin Fontaine, 2008