At every death to which I attend, these words come to mind. It's part of our horrible honor here in the hospital. Each death is different. Each death unique. Each death has it's own fingerprint, history and dynamics. Each death is in God's hands.
About a month ago, my colleague Erin Miller shared the following story from Henri Nouwen's book Our Greatest Gift.
...The Flying Rodleighs are trapeze artists who perform in the German circus Simoneit-Barum. When the circus came to Freiburg...my friends invited me to see the show. I will never forget how enraptured I became when I furst saw the Rodleighs move through the air, flying and catching as elegant dancers. The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduced myself to them as one of their greatest fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, gave me free tickets, ...and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future... I did, and we became good friends.
One day, I was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, "As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump." "How does it work?" I asked. "The secret," Rodleigh said, "is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar."
"You do nothing!" I said, surprised. "Nothing," Rodleigh repeated. "The worst thing that the flyer can do is to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It's Joe's task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe's wrists, I might break them, orhe might break min, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him."
When Rodleigh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind, "Father into your hands I commend my Spirit." Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, "Don't be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. [God] will be there when you make your long jump. Don't try to grab him; he will grab you. Just stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust."
This story continues to work on my heart and mind. As I name my theological position as process-oriented, where we co-create with God, I also really value the notion that God's presence resides in a place to which I surrender. I can allow God to catch me, too, every moment. I can just stretch out my arms and hands and trust, trust, trust. That's comforting to me when I am anxious about big questions, like what I will do after CPE, or small questions like when I am unable to sleep...not just at death.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant N. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen. - Commendatory Prayer - BCP 465
Into your hands I commend my spirit, *for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. - Psalm 31:5
How is God catching you in this moment?