Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. 


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Day Six

That I May Know How Short My Life Is

Written By Mary C. Earle

Practice Note

Meditation: <listen>

LORD, let me know my end and the number of my days,
So that I may know how short my life is.

—Psalm 39:5

Several years ago, after I had been in the hospital, my husband and I took a driving trip to New Mexico. We savored the stunning scenery of the high road from Santa Fe to Taos, and then followed a big circle through the landscape, stopping at various sites along the way.

The ancient rock and open space gave me an unexpected grace—a sense of my own littleness and of the shortness of human life. Those mountains have been there for eons, and have witnessed the passing of many generations.

For some reason, at that moment, it was truly good news to me to recognize the brevity of human life. Even if I were to live to be 90, in contrast to the endurance of the mountains, that isjust the blink of an eye.

And from the perspective of eternity, from the eternal now which is God’s time outside of time, our lives are brief.

The ancient Hebrews knew this truth better than we do today. Much in our culture leads us to participate in the illusion that we will live forever, that none of us will fall ill, that tragedy will never strike as long as we “do the right thing.” We need the medicine of remembering that our lives are short and uncertain, contingent and interdependent. And oddly enough, living with illness helps us remember those truths.

Gentle Christ, you brought me into being and sustain my earthly life. May I know that my numbered days are sustained by your love and will be received into the arms of mercy at my end. Amen.

Practice: <listen>

In your journal, write

Teach me to number my days, that I may apply my heart to wisdom
—a variation on Psalm 90:12

Then begin noting in writing what kinds of wisdom, insight and common sense you have been awakened to as a result of  living with illness. Return to the list from time to time, both to add to it and to  reflect.

You may want to put the list in a place where it is readily visible—on  a mirror or the inside cover of your journal. Give thanks for the wisdom that  living with illness brings.

REFERENCE NOTE: All psalms are from the psalter in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.