Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Notes Of A Resurrectionist, Following A Death

I posted my last entry so late on the night of Friday, May 9, that it was early in the morning of Saturday, May 10. Later that morning, my brother Al called to say that Janet and I should come to Louisville, because Mom had taken a turn for the worse. We got there that night.

Sunday, the 11th, we visited her at the nursing home. She hadn't eaten since Thursday.That evening my siblings and I decided to request hospice care, and to bring her back home.

Monday, the 12th, we met with the hospice worker. Tuesday, they brought her home, and a stream of family members stopped by to visit her. The hospice worker told us to adjust her every couple of hours to prevent bedsores, and gave us a schedule for administering medicines.

Different people sat with her at different times. I was with her late, and crawled in bed around 4:30 Wednesday morning, the 14th. Janet woke me around 5:00 because she was concerned about Mom's raspy breathing.

Janet and I were adjusting her when she stopped breathing altogether.

I went downstairs to tell Al and his wife Yolanda, who had devoted much of their lives to caring for Mom in recent years. And they came up. And we said goodbye in our own ways - mine was to kiss her temple and say, "See you later, old lady."

I meant it.

Because I believe in Jesus's resurrection, I also believe in everyone else's, including Mom's and mine.

If I continue here as long as she did, it will be another 32 years before I shuffle off this mortal coil. After which, I expect that she and I, in whatever forms we manifest, will enjoy one another's company again. For a lot more than 32 years, or 62, or 94. As a verse of "Amazing Grace" (not written by John Newton) puts it:
When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun.
When I posted the news of her death on Facebook, I wrote, "she had a good run, and loved Jesus for a long time, and I therefore consider this transition, like graduation from a really tough school, more of a triumph than a tragedy."

During the following days, I kept waiting to be waylaid by sadness, to experience something that I could recognize as part of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I wasn't; I didn't.

By the following Monday afternoon, when we visited the G. C. Williams Funeral Home for the family viewing in advance of the wake that evening, the disconnect between what I expected to feel and what I did feel had reached the point where I just blurted out to our funeral director, while I was signing some papers, something like,

"I just can't get myself to feel sad." I was too filled with gratitude for having had Mom for so long. Gratitude for her making it for 94 years. And happy for her, because now she is with Jesus. I said that to the funeral director, and ended with, "Where's the downside?"

Will I miss her? Of course. But at most I will miss her for 30 years, maybe. How infinitesmal will that 30-year slice of time feel when we are both still young five million years from now? Please!

For at least a couple of days, I was genuinely afraid that my lack of sorrow, my lack of heartbreak, indicated a degree of ...what? Sociopathy? A degree of not being mentally healthy.

But then I would remember 1 Corintihians 15, and 1 Thessalonians 4. And I would think of Revelation 14:13 - "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." And I'd hear Brahms' setting of that line ("Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben von nun an."). And even sing it.

And I could not feel sad for any more than the briefest of moments. In the light of resurrection, the five stages of grief - or at least the first four - simply seemed unnecessary. I felt like I went straight to acceptance: She's gone, and that's ok, because she's better off now than we are, and because we'll see her again relatively soon.

The most awkward part has been speaking with unbelieving friends. They offer their condolences for my loss, and I appreciate it so much, because I know they mean so well, but I've wanted to say somehow, "Thank you, but I view this as a temporary separation, not a permanent loss. I'll miss her for a while, but we'll be together again in such a better way, and for so long, that this is minor."

Maybe grief will still sneak up on me and knock me for a loop. If it does, so be it; sometimes we just need to let ourselves feel our feelings. But until then, I won't try to make myself feel what I don't, because, really...

She's with Jesus. Where's the downside?
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