My thoughts (Tyler Connoley):
Our usual understanding of Elijah’s trip in the chariot is something like Mother Curry’s death. Mother Curry was a beloved, old woman who lived in Medford, Oregon where my grandfather grew up. Grandpa was at Mother Curry’s deathbed, and he says in the last moments of her life her face lit up with joy and she cried out, “I can see the chariot coming for me! It’s coming to take me away, and it’s so beautiful.”
By the description of the flames and the whirlwind — not to mention Elisha’s cries of “Father! Father!” — Elijah’s chariot seems to have been a little more frightening. There’s also the strange insistence by Elijah that Elisha not continue on their journey. Three times Elijah says to Elisha something to the effect of, “You really don’t want to follow me any farther.” And three times Elisha insists, “As the Lord lives, I will not leave you.” Elisha does this even as the prophets of Bethel and Jericho try to warn him about what’s coming. His response to them: “I know; keep silent.”
Elijah and the other prophets remind me of some of the patients and families I work with in hospice. Often, a dying parent will insist that she doesn’t want her adult child traveling with her on the final journey. “I don’t want you to see me at the end,” she’ll say. And then other friends and family members will try to warn the adult child, “Your mom’s dying. You should put her in the hospital. You don’t want to see her like that. You’ll never get those images out of your head.”
But the child says, “As the Lord lives, I will not leave you.”
Even when the others are right, and the final hours are difficult and frightening, with images that will never fade from memory, very few people regret staying with their loved ones to the end. There’s a double blessing that can only come from walking up to the edge of that fire with someone.
There are also few people who are dying, who regret their loved one’s decision to ignore their warning, “You should go no farther with me.” In the end, they recognize the love that made a caregiver say, “I will not leave you,” and they’re grateful for the persistent companionship.
Thought for the day: In what ways are you trying to push away the caring presence of others who want to support you on a difficult journey? Who have you urged to walk away from a difficult situation, simply because it frightened you? Trust their heart to lead them.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.