Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thoughts on death and dying

My friend, mentor, and second mother lays in a bed tonight and likely will breathe her last in the next several hours. Her road has been a long one, and over the last few years has been difficult. She has had a bleeding aneurysm in the brain for a while, a slow seepage or trickle that caused her to have a terrible fall a few years back with breaks in the thigh from the hip to the knee, requiring hours of surgery, multiple pins and much physical therapy. She has never been the same. At some point she had a stroke which caused her to lose function of her left eye and the right side of her body from the neck down. She could feel touch, but could not move her arm or leg.

PT determined that nothing would restore the function, so she was helped to get up, dress and helped to walk to her chair where she sat for day after day, unable to cook or clean, and requiring help for many personal functions of life. I don't know why she had to endure this. Her brain was still doing great, but her voice became softer and her strength waned.

I was priviledged to visit with her since her fall on many occasions. I wish I could say I was faithful, but sometimes months would pass between visits, yet each time I drove the major roadway between her house and mine I would try to figure out when I was going to be able to see her again.

It troubles me, but such is the way of the working, that her best times for visiting were during the work week, at times of the day when it was terribly difficult to get away. I should have set aside a weekend a month to get to visit her, but often I did not.

Still, when she got to hospice I visited her quite frequently, and when she was moved from there into a more long-term hospice/nursing facility, I was priviledged to be able to visit her nearly every week. She was so good to me over the years, it shames me that I was not more faithful.

The beauty in watching my dear friend withdraw from this life is that it helps me to "number my days aright" as it says in Psalm 90. I have fewer years ahead of me than behind, in all likelihood, so the time must be spent wisely and in pursuit of things which truly matter.

Pat invested her life in people. She was kind, wise, organized, insightful, had a great sense of humor, loved music, loved to read mysteries, kept an orderly household, and despite what she may have thought was a good student. She ran businesses efficiently and she did what is a great thing. She obeyed what she knew in Scripture. She may not have known everything, but what she knew she obeyed. She and her husband are known for that.

Sometime very soon, Pat will have slipped the bonds of this earth and will be face-to-face with Jesus. She will be dancing and singing and clapping and enjoying the heavenly choir as she worships with them with such joy.

I will miss her, but she has taught me so much that I can remember and fall back on. I truly do not want her to suffer and be trapped in her mortal body any longer. I don't want her to struggle to make her needs, wishes and thoughts known anymore. I don't want her to struggle to have a drink, or to suffer the indignities of her condition any longer.

I hope, dear friends and my dear children, that you find people throughout your life that you can learn from in this way. I don't know if our marriage would have survived without Pat's gentle teaching, showing me how to navigate the troubled waters we were in. I don't know if I would have recovered enough to have known happiness and contentment again. I have been blessed by knowing some wonderful people along the path who helped me in difficult times even when they did not understand what I was going through. Several times one wonderful person or the other helped me through a really trying patch in our marriage. Mostly, they have helped me to see that my unhappiness was only partly about my husband. Most of it was about the anguish of my own heart, my own sin, my own selfishness, and my own damaged spirit. These people have each shown me something of God I did not know before, or shown me what truth looked like when you lived it.

There is a sweetness to the pain and loss I feel tonight. I am happy to go through the sorrow, because it means that I knew and loved such a wonderful person. My thoughts are on heaven tonight and I pray that her suffering will soon be over.

No comments: