We sat there staring at her mother’s 92 year old lifeless body. After talking with the daughter for a few minutes, I took out my anointing oil and gently made the sign of the cross on the elderly woman’s forehead. Then I blessed her into the mystery of life after death with these words, “May God bless you and keep you. May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May God look upon you with kindness and bring you peace, this day and forevermore.”
I then gave the oil to the daughter and invited her to anoint her deceased mother. She nearly bathed her mother’s forehead with oil, tears, and tender kisses as she repeated the phrase, “I love you mom.”
A few minutes later, she sat back down and once again we were quietly staring at her mother’s body. Soon, she broke the silence. “So, tell me about eternity…”
“Eternity?!?” I thought to myself. “I’m just beginning to learn about the present! Eternity is mystery.”As a pastor, I’ve been trained to not answer those kinds of questions. It’s best to invite others to explore and answer their own questions, as opposed to giving our answers. But for some reason that felt inauthentic in the moment. Sometimes providing answers is the most compassionate thing we can do. But, in the face of eternity, who has answers?
As I searched for a response, my mind went to my favorite biblical passage. I pulled out my phone, opened my Bible app, and my thumbs typed in the verses. Then I replied, “Eternity is a mystery, but I know it’s good. I know it’s filled with love. I think Romans 8:38-39 is right when it says,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “I love that passage. Thank you.”
So, tell me about eternity.
All I know is that nothing can separate us from the eternal love of God. Knowing that, I think, is enough.
(For more brief reflections like this, like the Facebook Page Adam Ericksen – Public Theologian)