It was my last day at St. Benedict's Monastery in Minnesota, where I had been leading a retreat on Julian of Norwich. Since St. Benedict's is one of my favorite places in the world, I wasn't really ready to come home, and put off calling with my travel arrangements until evening.
You would never have read anything by me and probably never have heard of me were it not for Jerald C. Brauer, who died September 26 at age 78. When Christian Century editor Harold E. Fey asked Brauer, then dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, to recommend a young writer who might become a contributing editor to this magazine, Brauer gave him my name.
Being sick is more complicated than it used to be. Medical technologies that offer new hope also lead to a bewildering thicket of options. The complexities of being sick may account for the rising number of books telling the story of illnesses.
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I
tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a
setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your
life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and
struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
We are gathered here in a Christian church as participants in a Christian memorial service to honor the life of Richard, a man who said that he did not believe in God. What right have we to do this? It would certainly be an affront to his memory were we, by this service, to deny him the right to have been the man he was. We cannot pretend or even suggest that he really was somehow, despite his insistence to the contrary, a Christian believer. Indeed, it would be a scandal if we who claim to honor Richard’s memory did not allow him, by his unbelief, to call into question our Christian belief.
Our teacher cautions us that the corpse pose is the most difficult of all yoga postures to master, but after an hour’s exertion in warrior pose, downward-facing dog and cobra, the prospect of relaxing horizontally on one’s yoga mat brings both relief and the impertinent question, “How hard can it be?” Fascinated, I report to my husband, “Every day at the conclusion of yoga class we practice dying.” “That’s interesting,” he says, trying to share my enthusiasm. “It’s kind of like Lent,” I venture. "Lent is when we’re supposed to practice dying, right?”
After rumors circulated that President Obama’s health-care reform would institute “death panels” for the elderly, Congress quickly abandoned any effort to address end-of-life issues in health-care legislation.