Have you perhaps heard or even said the comment following the death of an elderly person, “They had a good, long life”? Of course, the reverse of that is the death of a young person, and we feel as though death robbed them of all the experiences and years which “should have been” before their life ended.
As people come to the realization that their life in this world is coming to a close, I’ve noticed no matter how young or old, each of them seems to reach an awareness that “life as we know it” is leaving. They inexplicably move away from this life. We have ways to describe and notice the phenomena, as the dying person’s days become only hours and they know they must let go…in order to leave.
My mother’s words, as she lay dying, come back to me, “This is heaven on earth”…gazing from her hospital bed to the many family members gathered in her cramped living room. How does one let go of “heaven on earth”? Yet, not long after that, she began to move away from the concerns of this life. The things that had carried such weight became less important. Attempting to read her most treasured book, and struggling with it, she handed it to a loved one and said, “You read it now”. I remember her not being able to strum the mandolin anymore, setting it aside and saying, “Oh well.” The letting go was incremental, until her hand no longer responded to my grasp.
Elsie turned 100 this year. She told me she never dreamed she would live to reach 100, and now that she had, she wasn’t sure what to do next. But when the dying part came, I heard her say “This isn’t easy, you know”.
Yes, I know. From what I have observed many times, regardless of the years of wisdom, this dying is the hardest thing any of us will do.
Leaving what is known and loved to embrace the unknown, young
or old, how does anyone accomplish the task?
I was struck by these lines from the movie “Take Me Home”,
“We don’t die inhaling; We exhale. We leave it all behind.”
…Deep breaths… And exhale.