My friend is dying. Nothing dramatic, no teams of surgeons frantically and heroically working over her body, no crowds of people crying and wailing about what a tragedy it is, nothing that would garner a headline in the news. Just a sweet woman in the process of passing away, on what the hospital calls “comfort care”, which means she’s on strong pain medication to keep her comfortable, but nothing else — no food, no drink, no tests, and no medications. Her heart and lungs are strong, not ready to give up nourishing her body as it wastes away, but her organ systems are failing her, one by one, as the process continues.
My friend is dying. We’ve been assured that she’s no longer feeling pain, but her family and friends are all hurting. We remember all the shared moments, we remember her accomplishments, we remember her kindness, and we know each of us is richer for having known her. We’re coming to terms with the reality that there will be no more shared moments with her, and the understanding that her passing will leave a void in the lives of everybody who knows her.
My friend is dying. I spend time with her each day because it feels like the right thing to do. She’s unable to respond with her body, but I’ve felt her spirit each time. At first she was frantic, afraid, full of guilt for the things that she was leaving undone. She sensed her failing body, but was unable to accept that she couldn’t go back to solve problems left behind. All I could do for her was to let her know that her family would be okay, that all problems left behind were no longer her responsibility or concern. Her path is forward, her spirit should be focused on the next world. I reminded her that leaving her physical body is not an end, but rather just stepping through a door to the next phase, much like birth.
My friend is dying, but the death of her body is not the end of her existence. One day, when I knelt beside the bed holding her hand, her spirit felt excited and happy. I felt and heard her voice telling me that she was young and strong again! I saw her clearly in my mind, her body no longer silver haired, stooped over a cane, every step full of pain. Instead, dark hair swung around her face as she ran on strong legs, bare feet flying over green grass, until she plopped down to sit cross-legged and laughing in the sunlight. She was lovely and full of joy, and I knew she was okay.
My friend is dying. I’ll keep going every day until her tired body stops, simply because it feels like the right thing to do. When it happens, I hope someone who loves her is there to ease the way. When it happens, the healing can begin for her family and friends. When it happens, everyone who knows her will remember and miss her, but also will be grateful that the process is over for her.
My friend is dying, but her life was well lived! She made a difference to many, many people and to many, many animals she was able to rescue. May God bless her, and the ones who loved her, as he takes her home.