“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
Today is my wife’s birthday with some somber reflections on her going into another year not promised.
When one is young it could be said that we take life for granted. That is not the best way to describe things but it is a start to explain. In our youth, we are full of life and entrenched in the glory of living. Death is some abstract concept. Children are far more busy with play than deep contemplations. As the years progress loved ones perish. In my case, it was my cousin Jeanie. Jeanie was very special to me and we had plans of all things to ‘read the Bible’ together. She died during heart surgery and I am not sure if I remember the funeral at all.
I do remember when my grandfather died. I was seventeen. Life was difficult for me at that time. I remember visiting my grandfather in the hospital. He had to urinate, so I had to walk him to the toilet and hold him up as he relieved himself. The towering giant had been humbled. I remember the limousine ride associated with his funeral.
When my dad’s mother died it was later in time. I was already officially suffering from mental illness at that time. I recall after the services walking away from the cemetery. My dad was distraught and starting to cry. I went to embrace him and he pushed me away. I guess he believed that men were supposed to be strong and not cry. I recall the scripture in the Bible after the death of Lazarus, “Jesus wept.”
Next in line came my parents both in the same year. My mother who was once a rock was crushed. The stroke, pacemaker, and cancer did a nice job at slicing and dicing her to pieces. I visited her six days a week in the nursing home. Only on Wednesdays did my wife and I go to Bible study. Even on Sundays between services we dropped by for a couple of hours. Sylvia would have some homemade chicken soup and we would freeze it so my mother could take it during the week. I recall the phone ringing early in the morning maybe three a.m. I knew the report before I answered it. Still, my mother lived about four more months then the doctors said she would.
My dad perished from stomach cancer in a most miserable way. The cancer blocked his organs making him unable to use the bathroom. He was given hospice care and they hook up an i.v. with some nutrient in it, to prolong his like a couple more days. When my dad was healthy he would boast, “When I die I will discover life’s greatest mystery.” When the time came the agnostic scientist fled. In its place came a scared child. My dad who never went to church except for weddings and funerals called for the priest. Despite being around Christmas time and near Sunday the priest came over. I give him a lot of credit for that. The priest said some words and a prayer. My sister joined along as my wife and I watched. Dad died a couple of days later.
The final one to die was my brother. He too got cancer and died from it. My brother and I had a pretty hostile relationship, but to his credit, as he neared the end he treated me much better. It is a shame that some don’t learn how to live until they are about to die.
So now it seems that my wife, with her dementia, is passing through what you call ‘the long goodbye.’ She perishes a little bit day by day. She too was an extremely strong woman. She worked hard all of her life and was a blessing to many people. Now she can’t even speak in a sentence and she relies on me for everything. But I am very glad to have her around. She went to the emergency room twice last week and I missed her terribly when she wasn’t here.
I know too my time will come. Last night I felt a pain in my chest for a moment and I wondered if this night would be my last.
I have written a book of poetry about death called “Sunset Sonnets”. It looks at death in a positive spiritual way. https://amzn.to/2FnoHiS
Sunset Sonnet 4
I see the sun setting inside your eyes
I hear tomorrow whisper on your breath
Honesty is truth and truth never lies
I feel the Lord is calling soon comes death
Your hand in mine you’ll never be alone
We stuck together no matter the weather
In this world you’re the best I’ve ever known
Soon you shall fly high on golden feather
What are you thinking to smile so sweetly?
Do you see heaven with its streets of gold?
Your calm essence it soothes me completely
God bless your faith in the promises told
A last goodbye believe that it is true
When I say these final words “I Love you”