Standing in front of the stove making a pot of chili, I was still thinking about words of Kathleen Norris that I ran into early this morning, in the midst of that promised quiet time I longed for yesterday evening.“Now the new mother, that leaky vessel, begins to nurse her child, beginning the long good-bye.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying of goodbyes, long and otherwise, since Sunday evening when Kara called to tell me that her friend Linda (and fellow kindergarten teacher) had lost her battle with cancer. Linda is no more in this world. Linda has died. Linda has passed away. Linda has said her final long good-bye.
Death was expected I’m told. Linda told her daughter last week that it wouldn’t be long now. And needy as all get-out, Linda asked her daughter to go to the funeral home to make her final arrangments for burial. I pray Linda’s daughter did not do this alone, for I remember — and believe I’ll never forget — how my mothers two sisters accompanied my sister and me to finish up that last little bit of my mother’s funeral arrangements.
Even when death is expected, it’s not always easy to say goodbye. I blubbered through the last week of my mother’s life, so much so, that I recall apologizing to my comatose mother a few days before her death. I believe Mom understood, though she was never one to readily express her own vulnerability. Dad on the other hand, can’t help showing his naked need for others, especially my sister Christi. At the neurologist’s office on Friday, when Daddy saw me walk in, he looked up and sweetly said, “Where’s Chrisit?” In these final days of my father’s life on earth, Daddy needs the rock steady assurance of my sister’s love, to know that everything will be all right.
In some mystical other worldy way, love makes living amidst the surety of death all right; and most days, love makes life better than all right. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, until death do us part” is not just marriage liturgy; these words are reality for all of life, even our own.
I wrote some words to this effect in my journal a few weeks back, in a quiet morning time in Louisville, before most of my gal pals were up out of bed. Only my gracious host was quietly afoot, making preparations for the day.
“The human experience teaches us detachment. If we live long enough, we will say goodbye to grandparents, parents, friends and maybe even a spouse and siblings, before we must finally say goodbye to our own humanity.”
My mother died without family by her bedside. When Mom decided to go, she went. It was the same for Kara’s friend Linda. On the night Linda die, Linda’s daughter left her mother’s bedside for just a few minutes; long enough for Linda to quietly slip out of this world, surrounded only by the presence of God and heavenly host. I’ve read that this dying alone, waiting until no one else is around, is not unusual. Animals go off to look for a quiet place to die. And it looks like some people choose to do the same. Will it be this way for my father I wonder?
As I think about it, maybe that’s partly what lays underneath this mornings’s desire for quiet time with God — a need to die to myself so I might be more alive to the needs of others, so I might be more alive to a God who will never die. With the psalmist I pray,
“Satifsy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”