I made the cookies first…chocolate chip, the kind with chunky pieces that melt all gooey and sweet. I wondered if they might spark the appetite. I breathe in their chocolaty aroma. I sigh deeply, not with joy but sadness.
I gather the ingredients for Chicken Parmesan—wondering about final meals…final requests? I can’t help but imagine the Last Supper. Doing this is much harder than I thought. Tears fall onto the counter and I wipe them away. I dip the chicken in egg and roll each piece in toasted breadcrumbs. Heating my grandma’s old iron skillet, I place each one in heated olive oil. I think of the anointing oil of healing and wonder why it didn’t work. Instead, the oil of mourning is being poured out. Last meals together, final conversations, good foods offered with love, concern, and hearts that are breaking.
The sautéed chicken is soon lightly browned. I arrange them neatly in the marinara sauce—to slowly finishing baking, generously sprinkling cheese on top. I set the timer. Yes, I can still set timers and make plans and consider a future that stretches before me. But the family eating this meal has a different timer now. They’re suspended between being together and saying goodbye.
A large tray holds the meal. I place the finishing touch in an ice-chest—homemade wild blackberry sorbet—something mildly sweet, refreshing, and perhaps never experienced before. Kind of like Heaven—something we wonder about, but won’t experience until we leave this all behind.
I’m wracked with an emotional war within me. As I knock on their door, I imagine the scene inside—the mother comforting her dying daughter while the daughter gently holds her infant son. Her young husband looks on. It’s too soon, God, I beg inwardly. Yet, it’s not for me to determine the number of days we each have.
Once inside, I could feel this family’s peace about the approaching death. They’ve accepted God’s decision and welcomed His comfort as he guides them through this shadowy valley. Certainly they would have rejoiced with a miracle, but they’ve trusted God without one.
The family is surrounded by love—from family, friends, and a deep sense that God is there. How else can rejoicing be found in a hopeless situation? Ah, but it isn’t hopeless—it’s eternal and everyone in the room knows it. God has brought everything they need—love, hope, peace, comfort, and yes, joy in mourning.
I leave their home reminded that one day I’ll knock on my own death’s door. I want to learn to live like they are—with eternity on my mind, giving hope and leaving a trail of love for others to follow—leading others to Jesus who welcomes us to our real home.
Today is my brand new chance to live this way. And since God knows the number of my days, I'm praying for time to leave a long trail of love, hope, peace, and joy all the way to my finish line.