Before she died, I never had a real vision of death with "dignity" as the brochures and funeral homes speak of. All I had experienced was the type of hospital death we nurses are familiar with -- machines beeping, cold white sheets, glaring lights, side rails up.
But when Momma died, she was in her own bed, with her daughters on each side of her and her sons sitting at the foot of her bed. Soft hymns played in the background as we sat there with her and stroked her head and held her hands. My father's brother held one hand and looking at that, it was as if Daddy was there with us. We stayed like that, silent, until she quietly stopped breathing. It was gentle and peaceful and graceful. I guess the word I'm looking for is, well, dignified. It was as perfect a death scene as one could want. When I remember it, I don't shudder from the memory. I think of how beautiful it was, how special that we all shared it together, my siblings and I. After a while, we spoke together in quiet, hushed tones. The words we spoke have long escaped from my mind, but the attitude of the whispered conversation, as if we would disturb the dead, was of respect and admiration, as much for each other as for our mother.
We all must come to this place at some point. Some face it abruptly after an
Image by Chris Seufert via Flickrunexpected turn in the road, some never really see it coming, some don't understand what it is when it is there. The road we are traveling is indeed a road. It is not a dead end. It is a passage to somewhere else. Just like babies experience birth to leave the womb and live somewhere else, in a completely different existence than the uterus, we experience death to "escape the surly bonds of earth" and live in the completely different existence of the spirit realm -- but we still LIVE. And that life is eternal. It is either eternal life and joy and peace...or not. Where our path leads us once we pass through the portal of death is based upon our choice. Simple and easy.
The truth of eternity is simple and plain and easy, so that even those without great brains can easily grasp it. It doesn't take deep understanding or great works. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
There are not many doors, there is one door. There is one door to peace. He is the door and He is the peace. If it were not so, many people would know peace and few do; many people would know true joy, and few do. Your path, indeed all our paths, lead to this One Door. We want to know that when we reach it, it will be opened wide by the One within because He knows us.
When my mother died, it was painful and difficult and in the twelve years since I have known more grief with her passing than I ever imagined I would experience. Even to this day, something unexpected will trigger the tears to flow and my heart to feel broken once more, the fifty-one year old orphan crying for the parents now gone.
But my tears are not without hope. I know that one day, one glorious day, I will see my mother again. I know she knew the Lord and one day "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. " (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17) One day she and I will meet again and we will forever be with the Lord.
As Paul commanded, I will "comfort one another with these words."
(Thanks to my dear friend and colleague, Denise, for the inspiration for these words.)