Updated: Nov 12, 2019
For the blog this month, I am writing a very personal piece in tribute to my dear parents, both of whom died within a week of each other last month. Dad’s death was expected, but Mum’s was a complete shock.
In Acts 2:42–47, Luke highlights two places that were centres for discipleship formation: the temple and the home. I will be forever grateful to my parents for encouraging my growth in faith in both locations. I was taught to pray at home and at church. Likewise, I was encouraged to read the Bible regularly in both places. To this day, the home remains for many a vital place of Christian formation, and when we reflect on the holy habits of Acts 2, how they can be celebrated and practised at home is a constant and important question.
During the last week of Dad’s life, my brother, sister and I kept vigil at his bedside. As you can imagine, I spent much time in prayer as I held Dad’s hand. Some of the prayers I offered carried resonances of the prayers I had been taught as a child. I also read some precious passages of scripture that provided comfort as we kept watch, such as Psalm 23 and 2 Timothy 4:6–8. And throughout that week we had hymns quietly playing, mindful that worship is a habit we practise in order to honour God and that God in his grace uses to bless and nurture us.
My dad spent the last year of his life in a nursing home. The home is a former convent, and, while the nuns are long gone, the prayers they prayed are still being honoured and answered in the outstanding service and care offered by the staff there.
Two weeks before he died, Dad had to go for a short stay in hospital. As he was helped on to the stretcher, the staff tucked him up carefully and smothered him with hugs and kisses. I was so overwhelmed by their generosity that I cried all the way to the hospital. I have spent a lot of time in the past year reflecting on the value of the holy habits in the nursing home context, and I have come to conclude that they are priceless.
In the early hours of one morning in Dad’s final week with us, one of the nurses, Maria (a lady from Romania), came in to check on Dad. I needed to pop out to the bathroom. When I came back, Maria was kneeling by Dad’s bedside, praying for him. It was love and kindness beyond measure: a lady living out her discipleship and practising the precious holy habits in the demanding context of a nursing home, where sitting with and praying for those who die is part of day-by-day life.
Mum and Dad died as they lived: displaying grace, faith, dignity and courage. They are now experiencing all the joys and blessings of heaven. When they died, I prayed the blessing of Aaron (Numbers 6:24–26) over them. So, in closing, I pray that the Lord may bless and keep you, make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace, now and always. Amen.