Saturday, December 23, 2006


A Guest Post By Drusilla

[I saw the following post on Drusilla's blog, Heirs in Hope, and thought it would make a good Christmas Eve/Christmas Day post. It's reprinted here with permission. Merry Christmas to you and thanks for reading my blog — Dawn]

Matthew died half an hour before I met him. As we entered the hospice, a nurse met Sr. Josephine and me and asked that we go and pray over his body. I do not like dead bodies but I felt the familiar intense tingling that told me this was important so I followed the sister to the small back room where he lay.

As we walked along, the nurse told us a little about him. Drugs had ruled most of Matthew's brief life; he was about thirty. Just before Halloween, he had taken an overdose; no one knew if it was accidental. Matthew had been in a coma for about a month. His brain still functioned but medical science knew no way to wake him. His older brother had died of AIDS in this same hospice a year earlier and when the doctors determined that death was certain, Matthew’s family had arranged for their younger son to die also in this familiar place. Half an hour after his arrival, while the nurses were still settling him, Matthew died.

The nurse opened the door and we breathed in sweetness. A clear, high, just within range of hearing chorus filled the room with a song of joy. Peace welcomed us into its richness. Heaven was rejoicing here in this room, invited us to add our voices to its song.

“Can you hear it?” I asked Sr. Josephine. “Yes,” she replied as she opened her prayer book to the prayers for the dead. I followed suit and our prayers joined the song:

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Matthew. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.” (from the Book of Common Prayer)*

Whatever dissipations he had indulged in, whatever sufferings and torments he and life had heaped upon his soul, something had happened to Matthew while he lay in coma. I believe some cleansing, some healing, some radical change had come into the young man whose body lay on the bed. And now, in this place that should have been so terribly sad, heaven sang Alleluia.

This was almost too rich for human presence. I was nearly exhausted with wonder and was glad when we fell into silence. It was very good to be here but I could not stay very long. The experience was too big. Actually, I was too little. I wanted to leap into a grande jetes. I wanted to sit quietly and let it encompass me. Sr. Josephine sent me out of the room; tears began to flow as soon as I closed the door.

The operation of heaven in this young man’s life, its condescension were overwhelming. I wondered if Matthew had been like a broken limb that must be immobilized in order to heal. I wondered that God would do it, would immobilize this little lost sheep who must have been filled with terror, unable to seek healing without enormous help. I believed that God would do anything to find us, knew that heaven rejoices when we are found, but I had never seen it like this before.

The risk that heaven took was heart breaking. What if even a coma had not been enough? What if the suffering he had undergone during these past weeks had not led to this?

Yet now heaven sang Alleluia. What should have been an occasion of great sadness was a time of immense gratitude and joy.

* I was a member of the Anglican Communion at the time and was discerning whether I had a vocation. Though the community was mostly contemplative and becoming more and more so, the hospice was their one external ministry.