Previously I mentioned that I have shed many tears in the last month, but they had all been tears of joy. Allow me to explain.
The classic stages of dying are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her innovative study On Death and Dying, makes the point that not everyone experiences all five stages, and while the order above is most common, it is not the only sequence of experience.
When I initially received the news from a young ER doc at Mercy in Cedar Rapids, I was filled with sadness. I reflected on all the wonderful experiences of my life, and realized that they would come to an end. How could I best tell these people who had loved me and whom I love still.
I do not think I ever had a moment of denial, or doubt. This was the sure and certain reality (which ALL of us face) that I had preached for 40 years. Even in my dying, I would have the opportunity to share once again, on a much deeper level, the grace of love.
And so I had this rush of wonderful memories of family, of friends, of colleagues, of moments of God’s grace in ministry. It was perhaps the first time that I acknowledged that God had over abundantly blest me in life. Far more than I ever deserved. Only to be once again, blest in dying itself.
As I recalled these super abundant graces of God, I wept. As you responded by writing and reminding me to recall some of our experiences, I wept even more. Tears of great joy as you invited me to reflect on my role in your life as brother, uncle, friend, priest, mentor and colleague.
Thank you for what you have been, and especially for what you are now.
Blessed be the Lord, the giver of all good gifts.
Rev. Everett Hemann