Everything Possible: Three Dynamics of Ending Well

And the only measure of your words and your deeds
will be the love–you leave behind when you’re done.

As we have sung this song by Fred Small week after week in the month of March, I keep being drawn to these words.  They are the words at the end of the song, and they are about the end of life.  I hear in them three angles on life that are both grounded in reality and which reach into the mystery of life.  Here they are, in short order:

  1. Measuring is happening.  Like it or not, we are always evaluating ourselves, asking others to evaluate us, becoming angry when others evaluate us, and then evaluating others.  Judgment is real, and it is deeply rooted in our society with its Judeo-Christian roots.  Christianity, a religion arguably about love, absorbed the world of power and hierarchy that it was born into and conveyed those aspects of judgment right on through the words and teachings of Jesus.  The humble man of Judea who spent time with the poor and rejected ultimately sits in stained glass windows and on golden crosses staring down at us with a crown on his head–made into the King of the Ages. We can work for a different way of being in the world.  I think Unitarian Universalists are certainly an identifiable group where that effort is discernible, but we also fail pretty miserably at it as well.  The measuring and judging based on all the things we wish were not the case are still happening.
  2. It’s still about love. Despite the measuring and judging that we engage in and which is laid upon us, still the human witness from deathbed accounts and hospice ministries is that finally, what matters to people when we die is love–or it’s absence.  Sadly, we don’t find ways to express and live this until the very end.  Perhaps the perfect companion hymn to Everything Possible is the one that our Service Leader, Denise Berkhart Haynes had us sing this past Sunday: Filled with Loving Kindness.  That song is a sung version of the Buddhist practice called Metta.   This is the basic practice of wishing to yourself, and then to another, and then to us all to be filled with loving kindness, well being and peace.
  3. You are leaving.  I am, too.  Sooner or later, our life’s journey will come to an end. There is another aspect to our life’s end that is almost as certain as that it will end: most of us will not know how or when our end will come–even if diagnosed with a terminal illness.  And yet there is this space between this very moment and your leaving, my leaving.  Within that space, everything is possible especially if we allow love to become the way we operate–and therefore, our measure.

We have this space.  Now.  Today.

Bob Patrick

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