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We should be enjoying a beach in sunny Hawaii. Instead we find ourselves clustered with family in the subdued light of a hospice room. Disorientation sets in as we realize the drastic change of plan! Vacation meant we were going to be in a different world, waking up to new people, new sights and new sounds. In the different rooms at the hospital we experienced all of the above. New hospital staff, new vistas from the window, and new machines bleating cadences. Elaine (my mother-in-law) lamented that they had ruined our vacation. “Not ruined but different.” we respond.

“”None of us leave this world alive.” was the opening statement by the doctor in Dean’s (my father-in-law) care conference. For the next thirty minutes the doctor explained how they were running out of options. Treating one system, meant damage to another. Dean wiped his eyes and nodded to indicate he understood what the doctor was saying. He didn’t want to suffer, he wanted to know his wife was taken care of, he wanted to go quickly. If he was vegetative he wanted to be plucked from that garden. His wishes were noted before the meeting wrapped up. At the start of the care conference we held out hope that we could still leave for Hawaii in the morning. When it wrapped up, canceling was the only option.

Behold, I show you a mystery. So many theories of what happens after death, but no one knows. It is a mystery that never shows its cards. People die differently depending on their courage, constitution, hopes and beliefs. But none of us know what awaits us after death.

Having knowledge of what to expect on vacation we knew what to pack. Dean packed nothing. We had ideas of what we wanted to do with our time in Hawaii. Dean had no idea what to expect after his death. We knew our travel times. Dean knew death was coming. We knew when we were returning from vacation. Dean was never coming back.

One thing he knew was that he was cherished. In the dimly lit room he was surrounded by love. No one could journey with him, but we gave him a loving send off. From our loving arms, to God’s.

Was our vacation ruined? I can’t think of a place I’d rather be. It was an honor to stand with Dean during his last hours, to join with others in giving love to a good man. Our vacation ruined? Not at all! Not ruined, but different!

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Family and friends gather together to say goodbye to a good man, a devoted husband, a loving father and a playful grandfather. He lies in state, the funeral home making him look like his old self, even though he isn’t. Sad faces with tear filled eyes remember history. His passing is marked by love. We say goodbye!

Across town a young couple focuses on giving birth to the good man’s great- grandchild. With the encouragement of others they progress to delivery. Love welcomes this little child into the world. We say hello’

One leaves and one arrives. We live on a razor edge of mortal and immortal, joy and sorrow, peace and pain, comfort and conflict. We cannot have one without the other. Life goes on as it has for thousands of years.

Mortal and immortal, joy and sorrow, peace and pain, comfort and conflict, Goodbye and hello!

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