As I type, a dear, sweet woman is slowly dying. As with many deaths, hers will be one that will bring many, myself included, to tears.
My sister and brother-in-law, whom I've written about here, along with their daughter and other family members, are waiting. They are waiting for the inevitable and, I'm sure, it seems as though it will never come. They are waiting because there is nothing else to do.
It's not that any of them want death to come. It's just that they all know that the time is here, now. The long and painful journey of declining health has taken its toll on the dear, sweet woman and on her family. The pain of illness has been unimaginable. I know it has been so, because the various and increasing doses of powerful pain-killers and narcotics have done little to relieve her suffering.
In spite of her suffering, she has remained an unwavering example of dignity. Upon entering the nursing home, it was made clear to all that she wished to leave this earth on her terms. She left it to her two loving sons to make decisions for her when the time came and they have. My brother-in-law, being physically closer to his mother's home, has been the primary caregiver. He, in consultation with his brother, has made some very difficult decisions. All of them have been based on the idea that they must honor their mother's wishes. It has been her life and it should be her death.
So often, in movies and on television shows, the act of dying is treated nonchalantly. It is often portrayed in such graphic and violent detail that we, the watchers, become desensitized to it. We forget that dying is a sacred act. It is an act as sacred, if not more so, than birth. In birth, we leave the heavenly realm and come to earth. In death, we return to that heavenly realm to live without pain, suffering, agony. It is the promise of Christ. It is the reason for the death and resurrection that I believe in.
The sacredness of dying requires that we, the observers of the dying, must simply watch and wait. There is nothing we can do. We are powerless to stop it and we cannot, in good conscience, speed it up. I believe we have forgotten that it is the role of the living to honor the dying by waiting. We live in such a fast-paced world and waiting is not tolerated. It's not acceptable. So, death, in its own way, forces us to wait. It forces us to learn that dying should be sacred and should be honored.
So, tonight, before I go to bed, I will pray. I will pray that the dear, sweet woman be granted the gift of a soft and gentle passing. I will pray that my brother-in-law and his brother and my niece will accept the waiting and honor the sacredness of her passing. I will pray that we all remember that dying is a sacred event and should be treated as such.
I hope you'll join me.
Update: I received a call from my mother late last night telling me that the dear, sweet woman had passed. I know that my brother-in-law and his brother and their families are devastated. The wait is over.