“We are joy, we are broken pieces
Upon a spinning, changing world we are borne
But for the love that will not release us
Our Rock of ages and our carry home
And we’ll sing it to the hills and the valleys
From every land ‘cross every sea
We will sing it when our hearts are breaking
And rejoice in the song of victory”
We Are Changed by Peter Mayer
We have a saying at church “deaths come in threes.” Perhaps you have expressed those sentiments or experienced that reality as well. Recently our congregation has gone through a time where we have felt that reality to be more than doubled, almost tripled in recent weeks. In other words we have been working with individuals and families who have had a loved one die. The words we proclaimed on Ash Wednesday (just four weeks ago) are ringing in our ears, “you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Just yesterday I stood with a dear family in the ICU and we commended their loved one to God. I read the words of Simeon who sang,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;for my eyes have seen your salvation,which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2)
I shared with them that on my way into the hospital I sat for a moment and looked up at the mountains. That view led me to read for them these words of Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills —
from where will my help come?2My help comes from the LORD,who made heaven and earth.3He will not let your foot be moved;he who keeps you will not slumber.4He who keeps Israelwill neither slumber nor sleep.5The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.6The sun shall not strike you by day,nor the moon by night.7The LORD will keep you from all evil;he will keep your life.8The LORD will keepyour going out and your coming infrom this time on and forevermore.
I spoke directly to their loved one in the bed, not sure if she could hear me or understand me or not, (but I always assume they can) and said, “this is a time of going out and coming in-there is a very fine line here, but you are surrounded by a circle of love.” We prayed the Lord’s Prayer and then each person, a husband, two daughters and a sister and myself all said something that we loved or admired about the person.
She died less than four hours later.
“We will sing it when our hearts are breaking And rejoice in the song of victory.”
I find myself in that space today, my heart is broken, but I am also confident and certain of the final victory.
The painting at the top of the page is from the National Gallery in Dublin. It was painted by Diego Velazquez. It is simply titled “The Maid at the Supper at Emmaus.” here is something going on with her. She is being changed. Through a tiny window one sees Jesus and a guest at dinner.
I like it! We don’t always get to see the whole picture but we received hints, reminders, glimpses along the way.
“We are joy, we are broken pieces Upon a spinning, changing world we are borne But for the love that will not release us Our Rock of ages and our carry home