There are times in your life when you know that you must let your intuitive gut rule. It’s a hard thing to do because life seems to put lots of demands on us. But still the intuitive gut beckons: drop everything!

That’s what I did. Time was running out. My aunt was on her death bed in Vermont. When would she die? That was a mystery – but I had suspected soon. She was very sick and had shared that “a sick person wants to die like a tired person wants to go to sleep.”

I had sent cards and had very short phone conversations with her. Above all, she asked me to pray for her.

She lived in a remote area of Vermont where the distance to life’s abundant offerings, including cell phone service, is at least an hour away. Illness is challenging, and you need all the support you can get. Though all of her children live out-of-state, they had altered their schedules to help my aunt and relieve my uncle.

Church provided a network of support too. They opened an account at the general store in town. My uncle’s daily trip to Craftbury Common General Store was the highlight of my aunt’s day because he would return with hot homemade soup. It lifted her spirits and warmed her soul and for a short while, she felt better.

Though she had wished to stay at home, she conceded on Saturday evening to be transported to a medical facility to better manage her pain and monitor her vital signs. It was dark, snowing, and the middle of the night. This would be challenging, and they knew they had only one choice: transport by ambulance.

It was a long trip. She arrived in Burlington very early the next morning. Sunday evening I received the e-mail from my cousin: “We invite your prayers and good thoughts to join us at her bedside.” He was heading to Vermont to join his brother and sister. I dropped everything, did a Map Quest – ahead of me was a trip that would take four hours and 17 minutes. I hit the road, praying constantly.

The trip was long. Through the ups and downs of the Vermont hills, cell phone connection to my family was spotty at best. I arrived in Burlington at 10:30. Lost in the hallways of Fletcher Allen Hospital, I heard the voice of my cousin, and followed it. My aunt had died a half hour before I arrived.

The hour of her death was significant: 10 o’clock – which was also her bed time! It had happened as my aunt had wanted it – her entire immediate family was there, with my cousin making it to her bedside just 10 minutes before she expired. In the moments following her death, extended family members arrived. I am sure the family was as happy to see us, as their mother had been to see them.

I reflected on my trip to Vermont. Life has its ups, downs, and unknowns and so did my trip to Vermont. Dropping everything and going to Vermont was time well spent. Death is a part of life, and we have no choice but to enter into both. Rising above it all – well, that’s heaven. But for the time being, most would probably settle for a little heaven on earth.

It dawned on me that to experience some heaven on earth may require giving some stuff up and prayer. That’s what the season of Lent is about – a time of sacrifice and prayer. We die to our old bad habits or ways and we rise to new life. Soup is typical Lenten fare. Campbells will tell you: “soup is good food!” Not only does it taste good; it makes you feel better.

I’ve heard it said: life is hard and then you die! Sometimes you have to drop what you’re doing and give yourself a heavenly treat. Looking for a spiritual pick-me-up? The town of Scarborough Ecumenical Association, a network of seven churches, has an annual tradition of holding an ecumenical prayer service each Wednesday at noon during the season of Lent. Following the prayer service, soup is served, and people are invited to bring their own Sandwich. It’s a great way to lift your spirits and warm your soul. This year St. Maximilian Kolbe is the host parish. For more information, call 883-0334. Soup’s on!

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