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Friday, June 17, 2016

Embracing the Gate

I'm going to share something of a personal nature today. So bear with me.

My mother is currently dying of liver cancer. About a month ago, she was given less than three months to live. With chemotherapy, it would have been less than a year, but she didn't see much point in prolonging the inevitable for a handful of months more, so she said let it run its course. So now she's in hospice care, facing the gate of death in the next few weeks.

I've been struggling to even know what to feel, say, or do other than to be there for her. My dad still lives, though my step-dad died a couple years ago, but due to how it happened, I didn't even find out about that until the funeral was done and he was in the ground. So to a large extent, this is new ground for me--knowing one of my biological parents is approaching death.

It dawned on me earlier this week that I should do what I normally do when faced with these life-changing events: write about it. Inspired by one of the poets at our critique group this past Tuesday, I decided to write a poem for my mother, while she can still read it and appreciate the sentiments I wanted to share. So I've decided to share this poem here today with my friends and family in the hope it will not only remind me of what I value about her life, but what each of us should think about in our own lives.

Thanks in advance for your prayers and support for my mom and our family this coming two months. Know they are appreciated, even if I fail to say thank you individually or never knew you did so to begin with. Now onto the poem I wrote just today: "Embracing the Gate" by yours truly.

In this world, the journey of life
carries us to the gate of death.
Some earlier than others,
some much later than the rest.

In life, most of us ignore this gate
that so few will escape—
fearing the unknown it hides
and the road beyond its dark glass.

Now, my beloved mother,
you're drawing near to this portal,
to experience the reality we've been
told about but have never tasted.

You've taught your children,
through word and life,
the virtues you've valued,
that have graced your heart.

You've taught us to respect
all people, no matter their
race, sex, culture, or differences—
since we are all equal in God's eyes.

You've taught us not to interrupt
with our talking points, but to
patiently listen and respond, knowing
their thoughts are important too.

You've taught us to empathize
with everyone by refusing to
judge their souls, whose experiences
are alien to our paths and thoughts.

Those values will carry forward into
the world beyond the gate and guide
you to trust not in your own judgment
but in the lovingkindness of the Father.

But perhaps the greatest lesson you
are teaching us now is not to
fear the gate but to embrace it
with courage and firm resolve.

Have you held to your values in
each and every instance?
I'm sure you'd agree that with
dreams come regrets—

they hold hands as they greet us,
they are partners in the dance of life.
We are prone to failure and sin even
against our values, much less God's.

For none of us are perfect,
being humans restricted by finitude;
our only hope resides through
resting in the mercy of Love.

How we face death says a lot
about how we've faced life and
the lives we've encountered
in our journey toward the gate.

You've accepted it is your time to
enter those opening doors.
You've greeted the gate with confidence.

We will miss you, even as we share
your values and our memories of you.

And know that beyond the gate,

You will not be—

alone.