I like to sit in the back pew at daily mass.  Looking at the folks farther forward, they sit there quietly, hardly moving, and I conclude they are deep in contemplative prayer.  One of my reasons for sitting in the back is that I need to clear my throat, deal with a tickle that makes me cough, rearrange my back and my neck for better comfort.  First I cross the left leg over the right, then the right over the left.  All in all, I’m a rather fidgety person.  Besides, the back pew is near the bathroom–just in case.  Probably some of this preference for an end seat in the rear of the church harks back to my agoraphobic days when I sought a place conducive to easy exit in case the discomfort of being so enclosed became extreme and I had to get out fast.

Sitting in the back pew I became familiar with the backs of everyone in front of me.  Some look as if they could really use a prayer so they get one.  I’m familiar with the stories of some of them; others are “mystery people” — there is little opportunity for interaction.   There used to be a couple in their seventies who always sat on the other side of the church, about eight pews down.   I had met them casually on a couple of occasions and knew their first names.  Whenever I heard someone come through the door behind me, I expected it to be them.   The husband always flipped down the kneeler behind their pew, to make room for his long legs.

One day they weren’t there and our priest announced from the pulpit that, according to the front page of our daily newspaper, they had been found dead as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It seemed they had left the car running in the garage and the fumes had seeped into their home.  Their annual winter sojourn in Florida would never take place.  I still think of them every time someone enters the church through the door behind me…but it’s never them.  It was said it was a blessing that they went so fast, probably painlessly, and together.  As daily communicants we thought they had a good chance of being happy ever-after. I pray that they are enjoying the peace of God and ask them to pray for those who are still coming to that morning mass.

We went to visit Ann a few days ago.  Ann and Jim married each other in their seventies.    Both had lost their first spouses and after years of single loneliness decided to care for each other “till death do us part.”  I attended their wedding and they were truly happy with each other for ten good years.  Then Ann woke up one morning only to find that Jim had passed on without her.  Again, it was said it was a blessing that he went quickly, quietly, and as another daily communicant it was thought he was probably happy with his God.  But Ann misses him terribly.

It seems rather obvious that the older you are the more likely it is that death is just around the corner.  It’s just a statistical fact.   Now you see them……now you don’t.   In the twinkling of an eye they can be gone.

Do you know someone who needs a tender touch today?  No one of us is promised a tomorrow.

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And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.  But God said to him, “Fool!  This night your soul is required of  you…Luke 11:19,20.