Daily Devotion for Saturday 9th December 2023

Saturday, 9 December 2023 Passing through the veil
Do not fear your death. For when that moment arrives, I will draw my breath and your soul will come to me like a needle to a magnet.
Mechthild of Magdeburg, 13th century
Like many people I have no flowery or certain answers about what death may look and feel like. I could point to some inspiring resources and books, or even blog pages and websites. But ultimately we all have to die, and as a minister I have constantly reflected on my language and imagery especially during funeral services. 

The best image that I can offer, is one of God’s Spirit and needle to a magnet.

As our bodies become weaker, our spirit becomes stronger, yearning to reach the place of true existence. As a nurse I have felt thin places, almost palpable as I have sat with friends and strangers in the darkest of night and the brightest of days.

As the physical body wanes and becomes a shell, the spirit breaks free. I smile as I write this, for as a younger student nurse I was always told to open a window when someone dies, to allow the Spirit to go to the place it needs to go. 

Yet theologically, I have always embraced the notion that each one of us has the essence of God’s Spirit within us, no one is exempt, for I worship an inclusive, vibrant, and universal God. As we die, our soul is finally released to merge with God,  Creator of all things.  Our spirit has arrived at its eternal home, it needs no map or GPS, for it instinctively knows its route.

At this point all pain is gone, our bodies have done their job, the birthing of death has happened. All that is left is silence, unsure of what to say or do. I go into the kitchen either to make a pot of tea, getting the favourite biscuits, or to get sherry, gin and tonic or whisky and recall memories and stories. 

I had the privilege of being with my parents at their deaths, and both were different. My dying father had his family plus the cat on his bed, just as he wanted, where my mother’s parting gift was allowing myself and her granddaughter to wash her dead body and tenderly put her in her favourite nightie, recalling memories and laughing at the antics she got up to.

The veil had parted and closed behind them, but we were touched and moved by their footprints that left an eternal mark in our lives. 

O God, the veil is present,  
the final words spoken, the last breath taken,
now there is only silence, our breathing has slowed, 
and the grief is now waiting to erupt from the depth of our being.
Every fibre in my body cries out ‘be at peace’’ 
Yes, you have gone before me, to prepare my place in your eternal home, 
I will come, but not just yet, for you have given me work to do.
Give me courage walk in the light of your love Lord,
Knowing that you hold me close and your name is written on my heart.    

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is a retired URC minister, member at Glenorchy URC, Exmouth and the Quakers Community, Exmouth and an End of life Doula with End of Life UK and with Dying with Grace, affordable South Devon Doula Support 

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