“Some stories are harder to tell than others, and some are harder to hear. We know all poems don't rhyme and not every story has the perfect end. If we are willing to look at the circumstances of our lives, no matter how painful, as if we looked through a prism lifted to the sun, if we have the courage to gaze into every happening, turning each before the light, asking, 'Where is God in this moment?,' we will see blue rays of mercy, green bands of healing, and golden moments of love refracted within the pure light of grace."~ Bunny Cox
. . .continued
Last words are important. They have the power to heal a life-time of conflict in seconds. I made that discovery when I stood beside my father’s hospital bed before his first heart by-pass surgery. The doctor had given us five minutes to be alone. It occurred to me that my words might be our last. It might be my last opportunity to apologize for the sins of my youth and the pain and disappointment I caused him during that time. In a flashing instant of healing clarity that came from a place other than my own mind, the idea of wasting precious last seconds in such a manner seemed absurd. I realized forgiveness had already occurred. Obscured and unaccepted by the darkness of my guilt, forgiveness merely needed to be received. When life wanes to a limited number of syllables, love, not regret, is the only thing worth expressing.
“You do know she is very sick,” the doctors said in hushed tones as we stood outside of Tara’s hospital room. That is doctor-speak for “probably dying.” I should have understood. I had heard those words many times during my days as a hospital lay chaplain, but when it’s your child of whom they speak, “very sick” sounds like –“but will soon get better.” One after another, Tara’s body systems failed, and one after another, my fingers were pried from hope for her survival.
What last words did I need to speak to my child? I didn’t think I could bear to bless her leaving. I suppose I thought if I spoke of dying, I would somehow make it happen. I took Tara’s hand in mine. She couldn’t see me. The same complications that ravaged her organs and that would eventually take her life, had already claimed her sight.
“Tara, I want you to hear me.” Eyes closed, she nodded and squeezed my hand. “Tara, I love you and I’m proud of you, and I want you to know I’m going to take care of Spencer and Alden . . . until the day that you can do it.” I knew her ability to care for her children would probably not be in this world, but the next. I hoped my words would encourage her to stay if she could and reassure her if she couldn’t. It was as close as I could come to giving her permission to die.
Tara’s response was a smile and a nod that spoke of love and peace between us. It revealed a heart bond that eternity cannot break.
Tara moved in and out of hallucinations in her final hours. Her words were a messy mix of reality and imaginings based on scenes from books she had recently read. It was the vocabulary of dying. Even though her words made no sense, I strained to hear, knowing they could be her last.
I added a last silent prayer for my first-born to the thousands I’d prayed for her over the years. Standing beside her, my palms down, raised inches above her body, I moved my hands slowly above her--from her head--to her toes--and back again. I blessed every part of her. I asked God to heal her, to send his angels to care for her. I hoped
Tara could feel my prayer. I wish now I had touched her. I knew then if I did, I would dissolve into wracking sobs. I wanted to spare her the pain of my grief. Earlier, she heard me gasp for breath when crushing anxiety and rising panic threatened to squeeze life from my lungs. Frowning with concern, she raised her head and strained to see me. “Mom, are you OK?” I lied and said yes.
Chest pains worsening, I left the room without telling her goodbye. Tara spoke no last words to me. Maybe she knew they would be more than I could bear. I think she lovingly waited for me to leave the room before she died.
Released from the emergency room, I crossed the lobby to take the elevator back to her floor. The doors opened. Family members stepped out. The look on their faces confirmed what I already knew. Before I heard the words, “Tara is gone,” I knew. I felt her leave.
I said Tara spoke no last words to me, and, technically, that is true, but she did, never-the-less, leave me with words--powerful words to live by. They are memorable; not only for their content, but for how I received them. I shouldn’t have been surprised. With Tara, you could always expect the unexpected.
. . .to be continued.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” ~Proverbs 25:11
“Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. It may be that you will not meet again in this life.” ~Jean Paul Richter
“The best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart. ~Alan Alda
--Do I carry the weight of a burden that has already been forgiven? Do I need to forgive myself?
--How do I define healing?
--Have I known “golden moments of love?” If so, what were they?
--Have I seen “the pure light of grace?” If so, where?