I do remember details in stunning clarity.
The gentle cool of the night air, a handful of stars on black satin sky. The cold, dull outer edge of the scissors as they moved up my leg and down the other. My clothes falling away. Vulnerable, helpless me left behind on a pallet.
I recall the shape and scent of the sterile plastic mask. I’d been given the responsibility to keep it near my nose and mouth.
But my arm kept reaching out to my savior, the man with the scissors, the one who asked me how to spell my name, the one who finally told me, “We’re going to do the breathing for you.”
And a woman, appeared at my left. Strong and reassuring she leant me the strength to ask the question she knew was coming, the question I never thought about asking before, “Am I going to die?”
I thought she was pretty. Had I a savior to my right and an angel on my left? Is this how it goes, then?
And no bright light at the apex of my vision, no strains of music.
Just the love. That’s really all there was in the focus of my mind. No lifetime memories flashing, no last-second regrets, no manifestation of flowing robes and shimmering gates.
Just the love.
The weight was crushing and the air, beautiful and summery and light as whispers, flowed and rippled around me but with all my strength I could not, could not draw it to me. And my mind and my heart and everything I had embraced those I love: my children, my husband, my everyone.
I knew so much and so little at that moment. But it came down to one truth:
I love as long as I breathe, and I keep trying to breathe so that I can continue to love.
Breathe….but not fear. It wasn’t fear my soul pushed away.
Hands working over me. Busy, saving, working, knowledgable, expert. Comfort. I felt comfort by the saving efforts, strength by my companions, hope in the tiny gulps of air. And certainty of the truth of a good Creator.
He didn’t watch from a parapet on high, but served in the hands of my saviors. He responded to our concert of crying out: help! For six Santos’ looked beyond crushed metal and broken glass, hearts reaching through the fear and we knew God heard us.
This rest, this comfort, this electric place between panic and fear and truth and faith, this tiny square where the soul can stand in fortified confidence. This is the stake that drives faith into the heart’s hard ground and holds the flag that waves in the winds of life’s storms and flaps and snaps and says one, bold, relentless word: Love.
I’ve been considering the last prayers of Jesus before he crossed the Kidron Valley, before he entered the quiet olive grove to wait for Judas to appear with the captors who would lead him to certain death.
We know the mystery that he prayed with such determined fervor and intensity that blood droplets formed and gathered and ran down his brow and sprinkled his beard.
We know he was with his closest friends and followers but they lacked the deeper understanding of this dark night and continued to fall asleep, leaving Jesus alone with his future.
We know that the Son of God, very God himself, asked for another way if there was one. But no bright light appeared to light a new path.
The hope of the cross was all he had left. And the strength gathered in the emptying would move his sandaled feet across the Kidron to his betrayer.
But look here: in the thin leaves of John 17.
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, through the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”(vs 20-26)
He was thinking about us — you and me.
In his final moments he knew it came down to us.
When he looked past the dark horizon of his imminent death, he saw us: those who believe in him through the message of the Bible. He was overcome with love and concern and although he knew full well that there would be glory for him, he desired to share it with us, to bring us into this perfect rest and comfort and love.
He loves you that much, he really does. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to know God, to understand in you spirit the fullness of this belonging, this love and completion. Whatever has stood in your way before, shrinks in the long and loving shadow of that cross.
Remember, in his final breaths of prayer, Jesus prayed for you.