This weekend I shared a conversation with a friend as she came to pick up her son from a sleepover. It was the first time I had seen her since my father passed, so after I let her know the boys were out back fishing in the creek, our conversation quickly turned to her asking, “How are you…,” which naturally led to my Dad.
I shared with her about Dad’s last days, the blessing of the gift of time with him before he left — and she shared a very touching story about last moments with her grandfather, over 10 years ago. Through our honest and mutual tears, we talked about the awesomeness of the first breath of life… and the awesomeness of the last.
The first breath — and the last.
Both breaths are an awakening.
A birth — and a rebirth.
When my friend pulled out of the driveway, I turned back toward the house and took a deep breath. It felt so good to share those memories, and to be reminded that others completely understand the amazing power in those moments. Even in moments of great, great sadness… there is awesome beauty. What an honor, a privilege, a gift…to witness those moments.
Then yesterday a memory from a few years ago came across my feed. It was from a morning when my son Henry and I discovered a nest of field mice that been attacked. One of the mice was scampering across our driveway, and although tiny, appeared to be unharmed. But the other… she was limp and could barely lift her head. I went over to her to see if she was breathing. She was, but her breaths were shallow. I called my wildlife rehabber friend for advice, and she talked me through the situation over the phone. We determined that this little one was on her way out… there was nothing either of us could do. Except to hold her. And to be with her for her last breath.
The night before my father went to Jesus, I wrote about him on my Facebook page, knowing that he was approaching the end of his earthly role in God’s story — and that he would soon begin his new life in Christ. I wanted my friends to know the moment was soon approaching. That their precious prayers could now turn from asking healing for my Dad, to requesting peace and comfort for his journey… and ours, as we held him on his way.
A wise and Godly friend, one whom I greatly admire, was the first to comment. Her words literally took my breath away. Knowing that Dad’s time was at hand, she said this:
“Bless you, Shannon. Time to take your shoes off.
You’re standing on holy ground.”
Gasp. I let her words sink in… and let my tears flow. Dad would soon be entering into God’s very presence, and God was absolutely present in that room. He was there to usher Dad home.
For anyone who has witnessed a child’s entry into this world after months of being formed in the womb, it is undeniable that the first breath of life is a miraculous awakening. It is a spiritual moment. It is powerful. It is holy. The Creator is present at the moment His creations enter into this gift of life. And He is without a doubt present to lead His children into His Kingdom when He calls us Home. For the last breath of life is even a greater miraculous awakening…a waking into the eternal. What a marvelous mystery.
The phrase “holy ground” is found only twice in the Bible, once in the Old Testament and once in the New. God first identified the place in which He met with Moses on Mount Horeb (Sinai) as holy ground. It was there that God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go from bondage to Egypt.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said.
“Take off your sandals,
for the place where you are standing is
Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”. ~ Exodus 3:1-8a
Moses responds by not only removing his sandals, but also by hiding his face, a sign that Moses understood he was in the presence of the glory of the Majesty and Holy One. The holy ground was rendered sacred by the presence of God, who is the very essence of holiness. Wherever the Lord is… constitutes holy ground.
My friend was right. My mom, sister, and I were standing on holy ground.
We were preparing to witness the Sacred.
And on February 28, 2016, we did.
I recently bought several forsythia for my husband to plant in our yard. I wanted them as a remembrance of Dad, whose favorite color is yellow (as is mine). Yesterday when I revisited the post about the field mouse and read back over the comments, I saw where I had replied that Henry and I had buried the mouse beneath a yellow forsythia bush next to our garage. I had forgotten all about that sweet part of the story. So now when I look toward the creek and see ‘Dad’s’ forsythia, I will remember not only the gift of his life, but the gift of all life, regardless of how tiny.
And as I continue to march forth through my time on Earth, I will press on and stay grounded. Grounded in my Faith, knowing that there are sorrowful yet beautiful days to come — days where once again…
I will be standing on holy ground.