Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Death . . .

One morning about 2 shortly after my father passed away my phone rang . . . it was my cousin . . . it was obvious that she had been drinking and drinking heavily -- she no longer drinks like that, but back then I tried to avoid her having my phone number as I hated her rambling calls in the early mornings. She nor any member of her immediate family had been able to attend my father's funeral, but our aunt had . . . when my aunt told her family about the funeral she mentioned that neither my mother nor I cried . . . and this call was to read me the riot act . . . how could we not cry . . . Uncle Albert was dead . . . he was gone.

My cousin is not a person of faith . . . my mother and I are as was my father . . . I asked my cousin why would we cry as we knew that my father was in heaven now . . . that he was out of pain . . . that he had told all of us that he was ready to go. She just couldn't understand it . . . she does not know Jesus so could not believe in the promise that earthly death was not the end . . . as Bonhoeffer is reported to have said as he was lead to death, his life had just begun. My heart grieved for her about 2 years ago when her father passed away expectantly on Christmas Eve just as Christmas morn was dawning . . . my aunt, her mother, called me right after he pronounced -- she is a woman of faith . . . I remember her joy that Rod had made it "home" . . . oh, she was sad for herself but she rejoiced for her husband of more than 60 years.

In the past two weeks I have been privileged . . . yes, privileged to be with families of faith who had loved ones pass away in the hospital . . . each had a week or more to prepare for the inevitable, but they both responded differently . . . one family responded with great wails of anguish and "whys" . . . throwing themselves over the body. I silently asked their pastor (they are Pentecostal) what they believe about death . . . did they believe that the woman with her last breathe had entered into "heaven" and now was at peace with the Triune God . . . "yes" he said . . . so, even though I understand they were mourning for themselves, I still don't get it . . . the woman was 92 and had been sick for more than a decade and the family had made the decision to remove life support. It took more than 3 hours to get the family to leave the hospital.

Monday night a 69 year old woman who had worked 12 hours a day as a cook until the day she had a clot travel to her brain passed. She had come in through the Emergency room almost a week before. When she passed away there were no tears . . . there was rejoicing . . . one of her daughters even started singing Alleluia! The nurses kept insisting that once the body was cleaned up they could come back and say their last goodbyes . . . they kept saying no we said our goodbyes while she was alive -- she's gone now . . . the third time the nurse came out to say this after she left they looked at me and said we are going to do this for the nurses. Man they were out of there within and 1 and 1/2 of the death . . . as they were leaving planning the celebration of her life.

Two families of faith . . . two different responses to loss.

My mother will turn 85 soon and although in good health and their is a history of longevity on her side of the father among the women, I have been wondering how I will respond. It will be different than my response to my father as mother is not sick. I pray that I will keep my focus on the promise of Christ and that my tears will be those of joy and not grief.


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