Monday, April 23, 2007

If You Give a Moose a Muffin or a Writer an Idea

I followed the nurse to the top of the stairs. “This is her room,” she said. “But, hon, don’t expect your friend to recognize you.”

“I understand.”

“She probably won’t even wake up.”


“Unless we move her. Sometimes she wakes for a few moments then. Do you want us to move her?”

“No. I just…just want to sit with her for a bit.”

To sit in the presence of a saint of God so close to heaven’s gates, the air in her room smelled of lilies of the valley.

Or Lily of the Valley.

She didn’t move, not an inch of her, that I could see. I wondered if the Lord intended to assign me to be the one to witness the moment of her passing from this virtual reality to real Life. Breathing is supposed to be silent, unnoticeable. My friend’s breaths—infrequent as they were—gurgled noisily. I knew that sound. It both disturbed and comforted me. As long as I heard it, she was still alive. But it signaled her struggle to have to stay that way.

My friend opened one eyelid halfway and looked my direction. When her eyelid slid shut again within seconds, I was grateful. Her eyes seemed already sightless, by earth standards.

I smoothed her forehead, stroked her cheek, rearranged her hair that had come back in so different after her last chemo. Then I spoke words of love and caring over her and talked to Jesus about her and the family pre-grieving the need to let her go.

As I sat in that hallowed place, I heard a visitor from one of the other hospice rooms pick up the public phone in the hall.

“Fern,” she said, her voice carrying frighteningly well across the linoleum and around the doorway to my ears. “Yeah, I got to the monument place and picked out that headstone Mom wanted. Yup. The one with the two hearts and the date of her wedding anniversary. So that’s all taken care of.”

I’ve been there before. The “arrangements.” Who’s singing for the service? How many cars will we need to haul everybody to the cemetery for the internment?

As the phone conversation in the hall assailed my thoughts, I was struck by the woman’s non-hospice-like decibel level to her voice and the lack of emotion in it.

“Oh, Fern, thanks for putting together the obituary. That takes a load off me. We’ll have to wait until she dies to send it in, though.”

Mom wasn’t gone yet? And her daughter stood in the hall a few feet from her deathbed making loud, emotionless plans?

I rose out of my chair and planted myself between the phone conversation and my dying friend, grateful that “emotionlessness” would not color any moment of her Homegoing.

The writer in me processed the scene in nearly comical contrasts. The mourner in me processed it in pain.


Angie said...

What a touching post, Cynthia. We lost my father-in-law to cancer less than two years ago. It was an experience that impacted my life in so many way--and won me over as a major hospice supporter. We never would have been able to keep Dad at home until the end without their support. I hope your friend moves to glory as soon as her family is ready. Many blessings!

E said...

Hospice, how can I count the ways they helped me last year? And what an unfeeling child. I hope her parent is on the way to glory now. And that Fern's wait won't be too long.

Your words touch my heart.

Dorothy said...

Gram J said--

How many times we need to reflect on what or how we said something that may influence someone around us. Sometimes it may hurt and then if it is speaking from the heart it may open eyes to what our Lord needs us to say. Wonderful way of letting us know to think before we speak.