We do it all the time, line drawing. In tiny marks which indicate a mild preference for Bran Flakes rather than porridge (does anyone willingly choose Bran Flakes except as medicinal penance?) Then in the bigger choices in life, who we trust, who we love, where we live even how we die.
Accompanying those at the end of life is something priests, and especially chaplains do. Many assume it is all about repentance and turning to God. It is for a few who feel burdened in that way. For most, the presence of a priest is like having a midwife there at a birth. Our role is to support and encourage. Life doesn’t stop being lived until life is extinct. Those final weeks, days or hours can grow in significance when someone outside the immediate, often already grieving family is there to offer care to all of them.
Although it isn’t rocket science, it is demanding work to be emotionally present enough to hear the needs that are often articulated in a throwaway remark or a sudden profound question.
It’s often about laughter, being together and making a good cuppa. It’s rarely solemn and often so natural and right that there is a sense that something powerful has been completed. It has. A life has been lived.
At the moment when life ends we draw a line. The person we knew and loved is known in a new way.
Some say life is a series of little deaths. I can see that’s true. We lose abilities faster than we gain insight and experience.
Life is also a series of enhancers. Lines properly drawn provide opportunities because the boundaries provide an emotionally creative place in which we can experience being truly alive to ourselves and others, and can accept things for what they are.
I’ve had a lesson this morning in line drawing. I’ve let someone manipulate me for twenty odd years. Now we have new ground rules and I feel lighter as a result. Boundaries inevitably exclude, but they add stability. Wisdom and insight is rarely cosy or comfy.
Althouh lines are all about trial and error. A certain determination to occasionally colour outside them and be damned is healthy. They are there to give us a sense of self and purpose. When they fail to deliver we need to rub them out and start again.
So I draw my lines with care. Never follow someone else’s dot to dot and stick with my intuition. Life is a precious commodity and my energy needs to be channelled where it can be most effectively used.
Most people wouldn’t put Marmite with buttercream in a Victoria sandwich. Likewise I don’t waste energy where my views are not valued and my personhood isn’t valued. Life really is too short. That’s enough lines drawn to start colouring in, I reckon.
Life happens. We interpret and create from it with powerful effects, whether we are at the end of our lives or the beginning. The key for me seems to be not wasting time and energy on the unfixable and the contrary. Invest time and energy in authenticity and kindness.