Guest / Limited Access /

The day before he died, my father wore what his doctors called the "Star Wars mask"—a high-tech oxygen system that covered most of his face. Pneumonia made his breathing extremely labored, but that didn't keep him from chatting.

"Pardon?" my mom would ask patiently, trying to decipher his muffled sounds. Exasperated, he'd yank off the mask, bringing himself to the brink of respiratory arrest to ask about hockey trades or complain about the hospital food.

After several hours, he gave up on conversation. He started singing.

"What are you humming?" my mom asked. My dad repeatedly tried to answer through the mask before yanking it off again. "With Christ in the Vessel, I Can Smile at the Storm," he gasped. "Wow," murmured my mom, before singing it with him.

My dad learned "With Christ in the Vessel" at Camp Imadene in 1949, the summer he asked Jesus into his 8-year-old heart. Six decades later, hours before his death, that silly old camp song was still embedded in his soul and mind, and he was singing it at the top of his nearly-worn-out lungs.

I have never liked thinking about my own death. But I've considered it enough to know I hope I go down singing, or at least speaking or thinking, something about Jesus.

I suppose that is why I found myself sobbing on an airplane while reading Margaret Guenther's The Practice of Prayer. In one section, Guenther discusses the Eastern Christian discipline of continuously repeating the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." She reports her own efforts to incorporate the practice into her daily life, even sizing up the logs she chops for firewood by the number of Jesus Prayers she'll likely get through before they are cut.

I love the idea of having such ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedI Was Saved at Open Communion
I Was Saved at Open Communion
Having the choice of taking Communion made it clear to me that I was hungry for Christ.
TrendingNine Current Mars Hill Pastors Tell Mark Driscoll To Step Down from All Ministry
Nine Current Mars Hill Pastors Tell Mark Driscoll To Step Down from All Ministry
(UPDATED) Mars Hill responds Friday to leaked letter, says 'our team is Jesus, not one group of elders or another.'
Editor's PickLife Together, Again
Life Together, Again
After Hobby Lobby, vibrant corporate life is needed more than ever.
Comments
Christianity Today
Carolyn Arends Contemplates Her Own Death, and Yours
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.