I went to church at eight AM this morning. Yes, that's earlier than I usually like to go, but I have to pull a long telepsych shift later today, and I really needed to be in church. My wife is in Europe and I needed to just get up and start the day.
You know how you get used to your own church and the services and sometimes you catch yourself just going through the motions? Yes, you are physically and mentally there, but you just kind of plod through the order of service, sing the same old songs, and hear the same old reading and message that seem generic and not really for you.
Today was not one of those days.
It is the sixth Sunday of Easter in the Episcopal liturgical calendar, and when the service begins with The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!,it sort of grabs your attention. Later in the service, we were encouraged to pray with Easter joy, and I realized that we were also praying for the repose of the souls of not less than three parishioners who had personally influenced my life over the years. Is it possible to pray with joy for the passing of friends, family, teachers, coworkers and mentors? Yes, it is.
You might have seen this quote in the last few weeks:
Do not cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.
Some of my friends have moved on to the next phase of their existence in the past year, and at first that makes me sad, as I'm sure it would you as well. Later, though, when I process it, I realize that because of them and how they touched my life, it has been immeasurably better. It has been full of learning and experiencing and joy.
I do not cry because their lives are over. I smile because they lived at all.
I pray and give thanks because my life, with all the pieces of it that have come from those who have formed me and influenced me, goes on. I'm not done yet. I have places to go, things to see and people to love. Life today is full and beautiful and sunny and bright. Death does not win.
After communion, I prayed, really prayed with intention, and thanked God for my life, my work, my wife, my family, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, my ability to think and write and travel and eat and sleep and exercise and all the other things that I am blessed to be able to do today.
I also implored Him to help me with one thing that still holds me back. I harbor negative feelings, old grudges, hurts and slights, and emotional baggage that does not speed me on my way through this journey of life, but that holds me back from being the best me I can be. I know it's there. I know I don't want to carry it any longer. I know that it is not helpful to me now. I prayed today that it would be taken away, that the burden would be lightened, and that I could let it go for good.
At the end of the service, we sang the Hymn to Joy.
Happiness today is gratitude, profound gratitude for all that is good in this life.