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.)
Facing our mortality – we keep bumping up against it when someone significant is passing on into the forever life. Mortality, a gift?
Hi, Adeline, and thanks for responding. Yes, I do think mortality is a gift, since all is gift, when we can find a receptive perspective (which is not always easy!).
‘Receptive perspective’…. hmmmm…
Would like the handout … and would like to be part of the retreat but alas …. on the road again!
Ah, Joyce, it’s too bad we can’t do everything, isn’t it? I’ve sent you the handout and pray safe travels for you!
Thanks again Shirin. Every time I check in with your blog I learn something new about myself and about you. I hope the death and dying worship goes well. How utterly fascinating!
There are 4 dear friends of ours on the offrenda altar this year (this week); it’s so sad to see the photos of close friends that have died recently. I feel they are still here in the sanctuary at Good Shepherd. This marks a rite of passage for me into the realm of death and dying as I haven’t experienced losing people I love before. I value their lives but not my own so much. I shall have to ponder what spiritual legacy is…
You’re so welcome, Lisa! I’m glad my message appeared at a time when it could speak to your own grief and growth. Many blessings on this week and this rite of passage. I pray that you may value your life even more than we, your friends, value you…. If/when you have ideas about a spiritual legacy, I’d love to hear them.
In my late 70s now, my main project is writing my memoirs as a series of short books. Starting with the 3rd one, which isn’t out yet but will be soon, they cover a lot of spiritual matters. Powerful to me to write them! (Shirin, you know me personally as Rosana but I write under my nickname Zana.)
Hi, Rosana/Zana! I’m so glad that writing your memoirs is proving a powerful experience for you. I do believe that reflecting back on our spiritual lives gives us a powerful sense of how God has worked in and through our lives. When we share those experiences, we inspire others to trust God on their journeys, too.