Out of season

Daily Reading for December 28 • The Holy Innocents

We are accustomed to a natural order of things, with seasons that follow each other in turn, with chores for each season, and beauty different to each season. We know what to do then; we know how to be summer people and how to be winter people.

But when the order is disrupted, we’re uncomfortable, confused, not sure of what to do. . . . So, too, does death sometimes surprise us, coming too soon to be believed, coming to freeze blossoms, fell saplings, remove beauty before its season. We feel this, I think, at the death of any child, for we never desire to outlive the next generation. It is out of the order of things. It is out of season.

The death of anyone our own age or younger nudges our awareness of our own end. Death by accident too is sudden, unreal, unsynchronized with our notion of the world. And when death is by choice, the impact of its suddenness, the unimaginable reasons, the implied insult of being so suddenly and cruelly left behind, is like that early killing frost, leaving petals in the ice.

With the dying of our fruitful harvest season, with the last of the fish, meat, and berries put by, with a sigh for a departing summer and yearning for a long-deserved winter rest, let us remember those too soon gone: the young, the victims of accidents, and the victims of their own sad terrors. Let us remember the losses of this year and of past years, our losses and those of others. I ask you to pray for them, rushed from us outside of the proper time and season.

And we, those left behind, whose only choice is to say farewell, unready and unarmed; we, who like those fragile birch, struggle to stand again, alive yet not as before, let us pray for one another. May we stand through another year of seasons, frost-damaged but steady and growing still. May winter bring rest as faith brings peace.

From “Meditation on Untimely Death” by Barbara Deane Price, quoted in Women’s Uncommon Prayers: Our Lives Revealed, Nurtured, Celebrated edited by Elizabeth Rankin Geitz, Marjorie A. Burke, and Ann Smith. Copyright © 2000. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

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