September 4, 2012
Matters of Faith: Death and Dying
Posted by Steph
I force my feet to take me into the room. I can hear her sharp breaths, rhythmic, each one sounding like another may not follow. My mother, stalwart, stands nearby, clearly worn by the events of the last few weeks. She watches me as I looked her over, laying withered in a bed, only a shell of the woman she had been just several weeks earlier.
How is she? I ask
The same, Mom answers. It's just a matter of time.
I continue to stare, waiting for some sign of life besides the mechanical breathing. I will myself to see my grandmother somewhere underneath the paper flesh, the sagging bones, the chest going up down, up down, up down.
Do you want a moment? Mom asked. I'll step outside.
My mom had called me earlier that day, saying hospice had given my Nana less than two day to live. I should come down and say goodbye. I had known it was coming, as the strokes kept coming and she was no longer coherent, no longer awake. I reluctantly got into my car and made the thirty minute drive to the nursing home where she was residing. I was surprised by the emotion that overwhelmed me, the tears that I couldn't stop from falling.
I was afraid to face her.
Yet here I am, alone in a room with my dying grandmother. What does one say to a relative that is dying? Does she hear you? Should you touch them, to let them know you are there? I can feel the pressure of saying everything I never said and should have said, all in these last moments. Will my words go into a void? Will she take them with her?
As the clock ticks away, I find myself telling her I love her. I share with her how I've been struggling with my beliefs, with my faith, with God. I ask her to show me it's all real: God, heaven, the life that we live. I want it to be real, I need it to be. For me. For her. For this here, right now. I tell her I don't want her to be scared. I tell her it's okay to leave now, that we're ready.
I kiss her, and my mom comes back in the room.
Normalcy resumes, as normal as it can be in a situation like this. More people come, and I can't shake the loop running continuously through my head:
Let it be real. Please. Let it be real.
I lost my Nana more than two years ago, yet I remember this moment as though I just lived it. I cannot escape the conflict of emotions and thoughts I felt while I was with her. Saying goodbye to this woman that I loved dearly, who was but a mere reflection of a fate I would one day face.
Death, facing our own mortality, is a frightening concept.
There is something uncomfortable and petrifying about facing our mortality. It brings about the realization that life is finite, that one day the joys of this life, the heartaches, the victories, the struggles, will be diminished to nothing. This life does not come with us.
But to where do we go?
If there is one thought that gives me pause in my struggles with Faith, it is Death. Living the Christian life, believing that God exists and that we commune with Him in this life through Jesus Christ, brings hope to life. It gives life meaning. Our struggles, our toils, lead us to greater things. Believing in God through Jesus Christ gives hope to death. It gives death meaning, to believe we go enjoy eternity with God. Greater things lie ahead.
There is great comfort in this thought. Comfort in the thought that my dying grandmother did not know fear in those final moments, that she did not know pain. I yearn to believe that there was great light and joy, and that she was ushered out of this life and into the next.
I yearn to believe.
But if you've followed me along this journey, believing is not always easy. I still do not know what I believe, my struggles are still fresh and present. I continue fighting to reconcile the unanswered questions, the things that do not make sense, the parts of life and death that Faith doesn't cover. I continue to struggle with Faith like a blanket too small for my body, pulling up to warm my arms, only to unearth my toes to the cold.
I long to know there is more to this life, that there is meaning. I want to believe that this life is only the title page of a Great Story. But I cannot allow God to win by default. Letting God win by default is a coward's choice. It is the easy choice. I do not believe Faith means believing in God because the alternative is unbearable.
One should believe in God because He is.
And so I continue to journey on.