Some years ago I met a couple who did everything together. I remember the man after discovering his partner of 60 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer, said emphatically, “I’m terminal, too.”
Perhaps none of us believed him fully.
But a few weeks later, as his wife began the slow breathing of near death, he, too, showed signs of approaching the end of life, and only six hours after we observed her dying, he joined her.
We had watched in amazement. But more than that… with a sense of mystical completeness.
I have seen many, many people choose their time. I can’t really describe the phenomena. There may be some chemical scientific reasons for the how of it, yet to be discovered; but the why of it is clear. People reach an end point after the tasks here are done. My mother in law, hearing she had advanced cancer one day and stating to everyone that there were more friends and dear ones in heaven waiting for her, and knowing the rest would be fine, (those of us left behind), said goodbye to her children and sent them off to celebrate the new year. She quietly died the next morning, with the handwritten note she had written some time before on her calendar, “Hello, 2010”. She had some internal clock ticking, reached her goal, and that was it.
Last week I heard family members, while they looked astonished at the slow progression of the dying loved one who kept hanging on for one more day, ask each other what was she waiting for; and they considered the things that could encumber the peaceful passing. An estranged son that no one had heard from? The mother held on, day after day, until the phone call that seemed to let her know it would be all right, even though by then she appeared totally unaware of her surroundings.
Another woman, so gracefully accepting the plans that her adult children made for her in her recent widowhood, seemed overnight to become ready to die. The out of town children wouldn’t arrive in time to say good bye, so the phone was held to her ear, though no one knew whether she could hear their tearful goodbyes on the other end. She died just a short time after the last “goodbye phone call”.
A daughter waited for her travelling father to return home before she peacefully closed her eyes and breathed those last few breaths.
I can’t explain this. I don’t even try. It is beautiful and mystical and a part of the sacredness of dying that I find captivating.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Albert Einstein