Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Last Teardrop of Life
I stood at my mother’s side late in the evening of the last night of her life --- as we know it. Her breath had quieted, the room became silent, not a sound, not a smell, not a movement. No flickering of light. Time itself seemed to have stood still. While her eyes had been firmly closed all that day, now, bending near, I saw they were open in narrow slits, looking out one last time --- at me. And a single tear welled up in her eye. And then, even as we were separated at my birth, now we were joined again, and a tear welled in my eye also.
What did mom see, in her last moment? No time for a thought to form or be pondered; what did she feel? Certainly in the days leading up to her death she had felt some pain, or at least discomfort. Dying is not an easy thing. But in those final hours, in that final moment, the senses of her body no longer sent impulses to her brain, telling it to do something. The brain was done doing things for the body; the senses didn’t matter. If ever the brain and the soul of the body were in perfect awareness of each other, surely it was at that moment. What did mom’s very being see and feel?
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They say it takes two weeks for your body to really begin a vacation, divorcing itself from the thoughts and worries and feelings of your everyday life, as it goes on every day ---- and on, and on, and on. Surely to some degree our life, or at least our body, grows into some kind of automatic everyday mode, knowing what to do and what to prepare to do as our days pass, largely unchanging from one to the next, and so even on vacation it must want to continue in that mode. Only after some extended period of “difference” can it take notice, and perhaps change what it is thinking and feeling. I experienced that two week-plus vacation only once in my working life, and yes I can attest that somewhere during that second week my body changed. My shoulders seemed to loosen, and my mind didn’t worry about the meetings I was missing, or some tasks to be done. I was alone on that vacation, and suddenly I felt no need to worry the next week, the next day, or the next hour, or even plan about them ---- no planning was necessary at all. And life just happened, even though I didn’t plan it. And I saw things I might not have noticed, I spoke with people I might have ignored, and it was like I had entered a different world.
And my mind in wonder asked: “Who knew this world existed?” And for as long as it did, we enjoyed.
That transitioning to a world we haven’t seen or felt, even if for a few days, is a joyful thing. But you have to experience it, because it can’t be adequately described or catalogued. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, “Dr Death,” who used to give poison to people who wanted to die, wanted to experience that feeling through the experience of others --- no, not of their vacation, but of their moment death, of their transitioning to a new world. Some say he really had no empathy for the sick and dying nor wanted to help them relieve their pains (indeed, some he poisoned had no pain, only fears of pain or death). Rather, Dr. Death wanted to be there at the moment of death, even opening a dying person’s eyes if they were closed, so he could peer into them, watching and wondering what they saw and what they felt. He wanted to see “what eye has not seen, nor ear heard.”
Even as it took a number of vacation days to fully experience the joy of a vacation, a temporary change of life’s experiences, so it takes a number of days to fully experience death. It cannot be rushed. You cannot experience swimming without jumping into the water, nor skydiving without jumping out of the plane. Nor can you experience death without dying. It is something which must be fully experienced to find the full joy, in the life being left behind and the one approaching. And so what happens to those who die suddenly? I do not know, but I DO know we are encouraged to pray especially for them; missing the experience of dying they are in need of our prayers. And of those who CHOOSE death suddenly? Again I do not know, but those we are encouraged to pray for even more, for in their last moments, they have made a bad choice.
Some have described Dr. Death as a very evil or sick man, desperately wanting what he could not have, and not really understanding what he would do with it even if it were received. Perhaps he just needed a long vacation. Or perhaps he didn’t understand, but he was looking for God in all the wrong places.
Some say that in that last moment of life we see the eternal bliss arrive, and we shed a tear in happiness. Perhaps. But having been there at the last moment of mom’s life, I think she saw one last time and felt one last time with her body, what she had felt growing throughout her entire life, what she had yearned for and had yearned to give. At that final moment, mom looked at me and felt love, and loved. And cried a final tear of joy.
How better could anyone conclude this life, nor open their spirit to a new life, a new joy they had never felt before. So many without really thinking on it fear death, but I am sure it is something which grows on you, and at the final moment you do understand, and are at peace with this life, and the next, a peace beyond all our understanding.