March 7, 2022
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.” Psalm 139:14
My sister Carol died Friday, March 4, 12 days short of her 79th birthday. When I wasn’t reading to her, or telling her about my day and the family, or singing her songs, or playing soothing music, or praying out loud, I simply sat and watched. I watched the rising and falling of her chest, and the pulse still visible in her neck. I found myself breathing along with her, caught up in an unintentional meditation, a breath prayer. Sometimes the ancient words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” came to mind. Other times I simply recalled the breath of life that God breathed into the first human, turning the molded clay of a body into a living being, and the breath of the Spirit’s peace and forgiveness that Jesus breathed onto his disciples on Resurrection Sunday. Sometimes I didn’t think at all but simply sat with my breath and her’s.
Carol breathed some 830,488,000 times in her life, all without her trying. Fr. Richard Rohr wrote that God’s name spoken by God to Moses at the burning bush, YHWH is best heard as the sound of a deep inhalation, “YH” and a deep exhalation, “WH.” When a baby is born, the sound that parents wait to hear is that first intake of breath. The final sound that we make when we die is a long, slow exhalation.
I feel blessed to have observed so many of Carol’s breaths in the past week. They became the rhythm of prayer for me.
In grief, in joy, may my very breathing be prayer. ~ Anne