I’m focusing on mortality this week—but not because of Halloween. This coming Saturday, I’m leading a workshop for a rather unusual retreat. St. Philip’s Church is hosting an All Souls’ Day Retreat: “Embracing Mortality: Christian Perspectives on Death and Dying.” The workshop I’m leading is called “Claiming Our Stories: Practicing Spiritual Autobiography.” I look forward to helping people recall experiences of God’s presence throughout their lives, delve more deeply into one or two of those memories, and consider what kind of spiritual legacy they wish to leave behind for friends and loved ones.
I’m also conscious of mortality these days because of the recent death of a mentor from my youth. The Rev. Rob Craig was pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque when I was a teen. (I’ve written before about St. Andrew, when another influential pastor passed away four years ago.) Rob lived with cancer for years and always maintained a cheerful outlook. He was one of the first to get through to me about the importance of God’s justice, and I’m grateful to have known him.
Here in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, we are also holding our bishop, Jennifer Reddall, and her son, Nathan, in our prayers, as Nathan suffered a significant brain hemorrhage almost a week ago. Following surgery, they put him into a coma to allow his brain to heal. He has since been revived, and his brain scans are encouraging, but he is still in ICU and has a significant journey of recovery ahead of him. As a community, we will continue to wait, and watch, and pray.
Mortality is like that. Generally, we don’t know when we will die. Some are in hospice and expect it to happen soon, but most of us are living our lives with no idea we could suddenly be stopped in our tracks by debilitating illness or death. This is one reason why it’s important to face and address our mortality. I’m grateful that St. Philip’s is talking openly about how we can be prepared for the end of our life here on earth. Life is gift, but we usually aren’t given the gift of knowing its length.
How well have you accepted your mortality? Are your medical, legal, and spiritual affairs in order? What stories from your own spiritual autobiography might you like to leave as a legacy, and how might you wish to go about doing that? (For a list of ideas, send me an email—see the Contact section below—and I’ll send you a handout I’m using at the retreat on Saturday.)