by Ron Friesen, photo of St. Joseph Shrine, Yarnall, AZ by Ron Friesen,
It was a nice spring day in Arizona when I arrived to see Margi, one of my hospice patients. Margi, who had been an energetic wife, mother and grandmother, was now in the last stages of her life lying in a hospital bed in her son’s family room.
We reminisced about her life of being a faithful wife and mother. Margi shared with me how she missed being with her faith family, a Roman Catholic Church in central Phoenix. We shared laughter as she shared some of her humorous encounters in her parish.
Slowly, the conversation turned to her current condition. She told me her husband had died several years ago. As we talked about death, I said to her, “Do you remember the last words Jesus spoke on the cross?” She nodded, yes. Do you remember Jesus’ last words, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, English Standard Version)? She nodded. I asked Margi, “Are you ready to say those words?”. She shook her head side to side and said, “I can’t say those words.”
I invited Margi to tell me what it would take for her to say those words. She quickly said, “I can’t forgive him.” Becoming more animated she told me that her husband had been abusive throughout their marriage. “The bastard finally died,” she said, “I can’t forgive him.”
Taking a deep breath, I gently reminded Margi of Jesus’ other words on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 English Standard Version). Margi and I had a conversation about what forgiveness means. I reminded her that forgiveness does not mean that what her husband did to her was now okay. We talked about how forgiveness was removing our judgment and placing her husband in the hands of God and God’s judgment. I agreed with Margi that she could not forgive her husband, however, she could pray Jesus last words, “Father, forgive him for what he has done.” She lay quietly in her bed. “I will have pray about that.” As we parted our ways, we prayed the Lord’s prayer together, a prayer that reminds us, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Margi found new meaning in those words on that spring Arizona day.
As you read the last seven words of Jesus which resonates with you?
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
3. Concern for those left behind
“Dear Woman, here is your son!” and “Here is your mother!” (John 19:26-27)
4. What happens after death?
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)
5. Unfinished business
“I am thirsty” (John 19:28)
6. Letting go…
“Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)
7. Embracing the transition
“It is finished!” (John 19:30)
I invite you to find a quiet place to reflect on any or all of these words.