She told me it sounded like sand pouring out. There was a crunching noise, a piercing pain, then the sound of sand. Pouring. Out. As if all that had been broken was spilling out. It happened on the first of my mother’s last seven days on earth.
And now I wonder, when we begin to lose our breath, will there be a silent conversation? Will there be praise or lament?
In days past, when my dad was helping me learn how to pray, how to connect my soul and mind and heart to God, he suggested using the word itself as a guide. PRAY. You begin with PRAISE. Then you reflect and REPENT, humbling your heart, preparing and opening it up to know what to ASK for. And then you get to YOU, yourself. But it all begins with praise. “Praise?” I said. “What does that really mean? Is that the same as thanking? I can THANK.” For a long time, the acronym for me was TRAY.
As my faith grew, I made progress worshipping with others in church, singing with Mom as she worshipped at her piano. But it was when I watched her praising as she lay dying that I witnessed its depth. Praise.
When nothing is left but our final breaths—breathing in and into God’s Breath, heart exposed to heart, will we lay our eyes on His glory? Hers did.
So when I read Psalm 63 this morning, the last seven days of my mother’s life returned to me as if I were with her, watching, taking it all in again. “I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (:1-4)
Cancer had shattered her collarbone. How was she able to lift her arms, reaching toward heaven when one arm was otherwise unmovable in a sling? Without food or water, mouth parched and dry, she hummed sounds of satisfaction as if enjoying a delicious meal. She licked her lips, smiling. “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest foods. On my bed I remember you. I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you. Your right hand upholds me.” (:5-7)
I realize praise can’t be taught. Praise is the outpouring of a heart that seeks and sees and sings, is satisfied. Praise is the overflow of the deepest of the deep love stored up. In seeing hers, absorbing hers, tasting its sweetness, I began to crave it myself, until my heart began to store up what had to begin to pour out—an overflowing well of wonder in the midst of grief. Mysterious and miraculous is this love of and for the Father.
“The Father!” She cried. “It’s too bright, I can’t see Him. It’s so beautiful…glorious! Glorious!”
Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)
When all is broken within us, when our soul pain is worse than our body pain, when we lose our breath, only God’s Breath can refill. Renew. Redeem.
Oh ‘Glory, glory, hallelujah!’ the angels must sing when a heart learns to praise the King. And don’t we need that now?