It has always been one of my favorite church services of the year. Some of us know it as Christ’s Last Supper, the night Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane...the beginning of the end of Christ’s life on earth.
It is difficult for me to celebrate Easter Sunday without going through the Holy Week services, attending Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Tenebrae Friday. I try to envision and feel Christ’s last days and his sacrifice for us, for me, this is what makes this holiday such a special one.
I am thankful for that trip, I have written about it in earlier entries. I was able to spread some of Steve’s ashes at various spots throughout the trip and the garden was one of those spots. I spread some of his ashes at the foot of a gnarled old olive tree and quietly spoke of my love for him and how he had blessed my life.
Tonight’s service brought back the memory of that trip and as I sat there listening to the minister read from the Gospel of John about Christ time in that garden...I was there. What a gift!
My mind wandered to my last supper with Steve, the night he died. I wrote about this night on one of my last Caring Bridge entries and I would like to share some of that with you again as I feel this also brought a new level of meaning to me.
I wrote...”The Hospice doctor had visited Steve around 3 p.m. Monday and felt he was stable enough to dismiss the critical care nurses on Tuesday. Steve would now be bed bound, his speech--difficult, his breathing labored, life was dismissal. He knew it and I knew it and we were both frightened. I believe Steve, having all of his medical knowledge, knew far more of what he was facing than I knew and he grew silent. I paced, prayed and sat by his side. Bonnie remained with us throughout. Oh how grateful I will forever be to my sweet sister for giving all of herself to us through this time.
Evening came, I brought Steve a requested baked potato and a glass of wine to his bed tray and I decided to take mine in and have dinner with him. Steve and I have always loved our dinners together. We’d often find ourselves sitting for an up to an hour over a glass of wine after dinner, laughing about our past, our life together, our love affair with one another.
In mid-April Steve mentioned to me one night during one of our talks that he had set a goal for himself. Curiously I asked him what it was? He said, “I want to live until July 20th .”
Puzzled why he had chosen that date, I asked, “Why the 20th ?” His soft response was, “Because then I will have known you for 20 years.” I told him that was a deal and I kissed him and made him promise to keep his goal.
Monday night, the 8th, it was becoming more difficult for him to see, he was so weak that I was having to spoon up his bites and help him hold the wine to his mouth but he ate. While we were eating I started talking about our first date, my white puffy shirt, how nervous I was to even be having a date, I rattled on and on saying anything to try to quiet his ever increasing labored breathing.
I have no doubt that at the end of my story God spoke to my heart, because the next thing I heard myself saying was, “Steve, you know what today is don’t you?” He looked at me with his sweet questioning eyes? I finished my sentence, “Today is July 20th.” “Really…?” he asked, I nodded. He closed his eyes, smiled and leaned back into his pillow. He then held out his wine glass and simply said, “More.” He had a piece of his favorite German chocolate cake that our wonderful neighbor Casey had made for him. Closed his eyes and slept. “
Steve died around 11:00 p.m. that night. It was our Last Supper together.
I don’t want to in any way compare this moment to the sacrament of our Lord’s Last Supper, nothing should ever compare to those moments of Christ’s sacrifice. What I did find sitting in that service tonight, thinking about Steve’s last hours were that I discovered a new level of meaning in this worship experience.
I think I better understand the love God has for me. When I allowed myself to love Steve enough to say good-bye, to give him permission to go because I knew it was his time, because I knew it was best for him...I suddenly realized how much more God sacrificed in giving up his Son. Loving us enough to allow Christ to know it was his time, that his death was best, necessary for each of us, and allowing Christ to pass on this message to his disciples that night in the Upper Room and in the Garden.
Mark 12:29-31 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
I have friends tonight who are suffering greatly. A friend lost her father today, just 13 days after her mother died. She is hurting so very much. Another long time friend, is battling cancer with all her might tonight, she and her precious family are struggling together. Another friend from the past is about to celebrate Easter without her son. A gentle young man who took his own life fearing this life was too much for him. I can’t begin to imagine the loss and suffering of that sweet family.
We all suffer at different times, on various levels and in different ways. But let us not forget, with every Maundy Thursday, following every Good Friday, there will be an Easter morning.