Death Watch

The days lengthen.

The walk through Lent deepens.

Does it not seem sometimes as though this will never end?

Not like that other purple season. The days of Advent are filled with being busy and frantic; dashing around, making preparations, thinking secretly that a couple of extra days before Christmas would be no bad thing. It is no coincidence that the months of pregnancy are filled with being busy and frantic; dashing around, making preparations, and realizing in the last few weeks before the due date that the relationship between hours in the day and length of a to-do list are perhaps not as elastic as one might fantasize.

They are purple seasons, but that does not make them the same thing.

They are opposites. Bookends. The bookends that mark the beginning and the end of life.

The days of Lent are a bit barren. It’s a grim time, a difficult time, a time when our vulnerabilities are stripped bare and we have what seems like an uncomfortably long time to meditate and regret and wish that we might have done things differently. Perhaps we feel a bit guilty, as the season stretches on with what seems like no end in sight, for sneaking a look at our watches. Is it not Holy Week yet?

And when Holy Week comes, I will sit for hours on a cold tile floor keeping watch over a garden. The things I feel on that night are a microcosm of all the meditations and regrets and wishes that Lent stirs up in me. But, still, I will sneak a look at my watch. Isn’t it midnight yet?

No wonder He almost lost his nerve.

If they’re going to come, can’t they just get on with it?

 It feels interminable because we sit by a death bed. We wait for the end, knowing that, when it comes, the one who we love and by whom we have been loved will die. We wait for the awfulest of Fridays. And it is awful because we know that we will never be able to do anything to stop it.

In my professional life, I see more death than most people. In my personal life, I’m no stranger to it. I’ve seen deaths that have come quickly and unexpectedly, but more often what I’ve seen is the kind of death that has come after days or weeks. The deaths that are anticipated if not really expected. And for people who are waiting for death and the people who wait with them, it is grim and it feels oppressive and the days are too long but not long enough and there is far far too much time to think about the things that we might have done differently.

This is Lent.

We are there with Him in a desert, grim in its emptiness and oppressive in its vastness, knowing and yet refusing to know what waits for us when we leave.

There is no end in sight.

But even as we sneak glimpses of the slow-moving second hand, what we really want is for the end never to come.

Stay by His side. Keep watch. Keep alert. Keep loving Him.

The end is where we start from.

 

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