Padre has told me that he likes funerals more than weddings, because he knows how they’re going to turn out. And I know, rationally, that death isn’t bad per se. It’s a part of life. It’s how God designed things. Dealing with it is part of our human journey.
Grandma Georgia was on hospice care for three days, and she was coherent up until the end. Though I didn’t know her well, she asked about me and my baby (referring to my two-year-old) on her deathbed, because she knew my mother-in-law usually spends Wednesdays with Toddler-tron, and MIL was sitting there beside Georgia, holding her hand and praying the rosary.
Near as we can tell, she had a peaceful passing. She was discussing who she saw and confused as to why no one else saw the pretty lights all over the room. “I see Jesus,” she said at one point, “but he won’t look at me yet. I’m ready to go with him. But he’s not ready for me.” She saw her sisters and her deceased husband (though one of them was missing, and we have been chuckling about her comment that “Richard must be taking a little longer to get there!”), and she apologized to her sons for being so tired, for being ready to go. They assured her that it was OK.
Grandma Georgia wasn’t Catholic, and when my mother-in-law was sharing these stories on Saturday with Padre as we cleaned up the kitchen at the activity center in preparation for the funeral dinner today, she said, “Father, it’s not just Catholics who go to heaven. I don’t know how people can think that.” “Well,” Padre replied, not skipping a beat (he never does), “there’s call forwarding.”
And at 6 AM on Friday morning, she went home. Jesus must have turned to look at her and I pray that she’s with Him now. I have no doubt that if there’s food in heaven (and I suspect that in her heaven, there is), she’s feasting. She was a little lady with a big appetite, and the loss of that appetite was a big flag that this was the “real thing” and not just another scare. She’s been close to death two or three times in the last nine months since her health has declined, but in 91 years of living, her appetite only waned on her deathbed. She was eating homemade pickles over the summer, and I sent her some of my grape jelly.
If there’s a way to die, surely this is it. To live a long and full life – full of pain and joy, to be sure – to be coherent and sharp up until the end, to be surrounded by those you love and have a chance to hold their hands and say goodbye – surely this is the poster of ideal dying.
All this thinking about death has also made me play the little game I so try to avoid (it’s the devil’s snare!)…the “what if” game. What if my husband died? What if one of my children died? (I’ll spare you from going right on down the list of everyone I love.) What would I do? What would that be like? How haunted would I become? What would it be like in a month, a year, a decade? How would life continue, and what would have to change? Where would the blessing be in a sudden, unexpected death? How could I trust God and keep my faith in the midst of sorrow and grief?
But that game has no winners and so, as we await our October baby and the joy of new life, I resolve to stop playing it.