Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14
May and June have been very emotional months for me. Sometimes
it was such a roller coaster ride for me physically, emotionally
and spiritually that I hardly had time to focus or process
everything that was happening. I just sort of 'got through it'
without much feeling or reflection.
Yet even as I went through it all, a day at a time, I know
there was a part of me that was grounded or else I would not have
maintained. For those who might not know, my brother died on June
7th and his wake was a week ago today in CT, followed by the
funeral on Monday. (Addendum: July 22nd: in preparing this
manuscript for publication on our church website, I must sadly
note that his wife died 12 days later)
When I got back from my vacation at the end of May, I was here
one day but then went to CT and was there a week, taking care of
him for two days and then helping get him into a Hospice facility
in CT where he spent the last 12 days of his life. Those were
wonderful, quality days for him and for us all. Within a half hour
of getting him into the facility he was no longer under stress to
breathe; the extra oxygen and medications helped immediately. The
next 5 days were powerful in that he was able to concen-trate on
his life and relationships instead of concentrating on the
struggle to breathe.
He had many great visits with friends and family and talked to
his wife each day on the phone in the hospital. She herself had
almost died on Mother's Day. She was in intensive care managing to
breathe on her own after the ventilator was removed. She was,
however, not recovering, just maintaining as different bodily
systems continued to gradually shut down. She was evaluated for
Hospice and was ready to be admitted to the Hospice facility. She
arrived about 3 hours before my brother died. The staff
immediately took his bed to her room and placed it beside hers and
they held hands and she spoke to him over the last 3 hours of his
life. He was not speaking at that point, nor opening his eyes, but
he was conscious and responding to touch and sound.
It was a first for the staff at Hospice over all the years
(over 20) that that facility has been operating. There is no way
any of us could have scripted that ending to my brother's life;
that he and his wife of 49 years could be together side by side as
sick as they both were.
My sister-in-law continues to fail some each day. She is lucid
and is having quality time with family and friends in her last
While I was with my brother that week before his death, he
asked me if I would handle his funeral. Part of me wished he
hadn't asked, but another part of me felt honored that he asked.
It was the most difficult funeral that I ever put together, and
the most difficult homily I had ever written.
One of our long-time members, Mary Clingan, died at noon on the
7th, and my brother that night at 9:30. I was a Mary's bedside
with some of her family, all of us arriving less than five minutes
after she passed. But that would have been the way she wanted
it-not wanting us all standing around her, having her being the
center of attention and focus in her last moments.
I left for CT after a wedding last weekend, visiting my
sister-in-law first when I arrived in CT and then going directly
to the funeral home for four hours of visitation for my brother.
He was dearly loved by family and friends and business associates
so that it was non-stop visitation for four hours. I'm grateful to
friends of mine for their support as they came from Maryland, New
Jersey and Virginia to the visitation and stayed for the funeral
the next day. And I'm grateful to all of you for your prayers and
for the many notes and cards of condolences. All so helpful and
And, I am grateful to Pastor Fernandez for her presence here as
pastor so that I could be in CT for all those important and
special days leading up to my brother's death, and being there for
the funeral as well.
While I was in CT, another one of our dear members, Edith
Canfield, 101 years of age, died, and her funeral is tomorrow.
Yesterday I presided at another wedding.
So, you see, I go back and forth emotionally, and it all seems
to happen so fast that I don't have time to focus.
Yet, I know, that being grounded in my faith in the Triune God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that I somehow had the strength to
still be a meaningful presence.
Today's psalm is very powerful for me, as it should be for all
of you as well. Verses 12-14 read, "Those who are planted in the
house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God; they
shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be green and succulent;
that they may show how upright the Lord is, my rock, in whom there
is no fault."
As Christians, we are all planted by the Lord to be witnesses
to His strength in whatever befalls us. We are planted where we
are needed. Every one of us. We are never somewhere where we are
not planted and needed. Sometimes life comes at us so quickly and
from so many angles that we don't have time to realize this.
Sometimes we even feel estranged from God in the midst of one
trial after another. Yet, God has planted us where we are so that
we might flourish and be whom each one of us was created to
be-each of us with our special gifts given to us by God to use not
only for our own life, but in service to others as well.
The Psalm says that the 'righteous' shall flourish like a palm
tree. The 'righteous' being those who are in a right relationship
with God. That is, if we are grounded in that relationship, we
will flourish even in the midst of difficult times in our lives.
God will be our strength; God will be our comfort and guide and
sustainer; God will be our Redeemer and Salvation that helps us
rise above our challenges and not succumb to them or be oppressed
It is so important for us to make sure our youth and children
have that same grounding so that midst all the incredible
challenges they face now and will face in days and years ahead,
they will feel supported and strengthened because inwardly they
are being renewed day by day. They will have their friends and
family to love and support them; they will have a church family to
support them in prayer and care; and they will feel strengthened
and supported by their God because they are in a good relationship
with God. Family and friends can often fall away (even Jesus
experienced that), but God will never abandon us. God is always
there for us-there for us to turn to so that we don't succumb to
our life challenges or feel oppressed by them. There for us so
that we can 'flourish' where we are planted because God has need
for us right where we are at any moment.
May you all, each day, take time to ground yourself in your
faith, in the knowledge that you are chosen by God and planted by
God to flourish right where you are so that others might come to
know that same relationship with God that you have-so that, like
you, they might feel strengthened, supported, loved and have the
promise of salvation.