A friend of many years died this morning. I knew this was coming but now that that day is here, I am numb. No tears have come yet nor anger at how abrupt death can be. I’m just going to let the sweep of ritual and relationships have it’s way with me because, though I feel diminishment, al le John Donne, Mike’s death is not about me.
He and I did, however, talk about his end-stage liver disease and he knew he would not live long. He said he was not afraid to die but was anxious about the process. Would it be painful? Protracted? Could he suffer through it if necessary. Then he stopped, thought for a moment and then suggested a hymn for his funeral, “Abide with Me.”
That hymn is an old Protestant favorite by Henry F. Lyte. It’s a prayer that a Christian might pray as he faces death. In the Gospel of Luke, two disciples, discouraged and saddened by the death of Jesus, take the road back home after the crucifixion. A stranger walks with them, explains why the messiah had to suffer and die. Once they arrive at their village the two disciples, now enlightened by grace, entreat the stranger to “stay with us” or “abide with us.”
“Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, abide with me.”
It’s a hymn of confidence that the Lord would hear the soul’s prayer which reflects that “I need Thy presence every passing hour, that with His presence “I fear no foe…Where is death’s sting? I triumph still if Thou abide with Me.”
Mike was a Resurrectionist, a religious of the Congregation of the Resurrection. He lived in the hope of the resurrection every day. “Abide with me” presumes that like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we, too, will come to that place where we find Jesus alive and beckoning us to come.
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’ns morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Mike Danek died on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the day he became a religious. At that time, he vowed community life and confidence in the Lord in the Congregation of the Resurrection.