Thursday, January 3, 2008

"May your rest this day be in peace...

and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God." So says our liturgy of commendation for the dying in the Episcopal Church. There is something so simple and yet profound about this blessing.

I read this last Saturday as I waited for the inevitable phone call. My Aunt Pat was admitted to the hospice hospital in San Diego the day before. She was in her final hours after an almost 8 year battle with multiple myeloma. Her kidneys were failing and, having seen this with my father-in-law, I knew her passing would be relatively painless. Of all the ways we can exit this life, kidney failure makes my "top ten" list of how I'd like to go - painless and peaceful.
"Depart O Christian soul out of this world ..."
Aunt Pat was an interesting woman. She was my dad's older (and only) sister being 7 years his senior. She took my dad in when he could no longer live with his parents. She really was more of a mother to my dad than his biological mom. Before my dad went to live with her, she lived in Maine and, when her first marriage ended, she lived in New York City. Eventually she returned to San Diego and remained there for the rest of her life.
"In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you ..."
I remember going to her house in San Diego (we lived about 20 minutes away). She and her husband had a pool in their backyard. I learned to swim in that pool. We moved to Northern California when I was 7, but we would return for Christmas each year and visit her. They always had an open house on Christmas Eve.
"In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you..."
When she was a teen, my aunt joined the Episcopal Church. When her children were at home, she was very active and faithfully attended. When I was 3 1/2, I served as the flower girl at her daughter's wedding at All Souls Episcopal in San Diego. We were Lutheran and I was amazed at the pageantry of the Episcopal Church. My aunt's two sons were altar boys and wore vestments. The thing I remember most is how my cousins and the priest all came out together and dropped to one knee in front of the altar ... and rose together ... I'd never witnessed precision genuflecting before. I was hooked. My mom loves to tell how I picked up the genuflect like a pro ... and used it everywhere ... in the parking lot ... the frozen food section at Safeway ... the Tiny Tots preschool program ... and ... yes ... even at the Lutheran Church (which raised a few eyebrows in my day). I trace my Anglican tendencies to my cousin Cathy's wedding - the seeds were sown.
"In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you."
She worked for the City of San Diego and was a feminist at heart. She liked to dance. My dad told me about when he and my mom went out dancing with Pat and Freeman one night. Dad was jitterbugging with her and they both reached out for each other and just missed the hand grab ... and both ended up on their keasters in the middle of the dance floor! And they both cracked up laughing.

I remember her telling me about the day she received her diagnosis of cancer. It was on her 70th birthday. The doctor gave her the news and then said, "You are the same person you were yesterday before you received this diagnosis. We'll treat it. Go live your life." And she did. She beat all the estimates her doctors had about living with multiple myeloma. Her kidneys had failed once shortly after her diagnosis - toxins from the cancer itself. She had dialysis and miraculously her kidney function returned after a few months (the doctors said there was only a slim chance of this happening). But this type of cancer has no cure and it took its toll, but she lived as fully as she could for as long as she could.
"May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God."
It's my prayer for you Aunt Pat ... until we see each other again.

1 comment:

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

what a beautiful remembrance of your aunt! i especially enjoyed how you interwove the memories with the richness of the liturgical rite...