Affirmation: This is the day the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.
My friend and fellow church member died this week. She had been fighting a recurrent cancer for about a year now. She chose to stop treatment. It was no longer helping her. I’d been by to visit her several times, over the last couple of months. I enjoyed sitting with her and discussing different ideas and sharing stories. I saw her on Thursday of last week. She was in so much pain. She was in so much pain and she was so worried about being “rude” to me. I was lucky. Before I left her, I leaned over and whispered, “I love you.” She responded, “I love you too.” Those were the last words she said to me. I am holding them tenderly in my heart now as I write and all through this week as we, myself and all those who loved her, go through the rituals of saying our final goodbyes.
We had been in the same church group for about 4 years. We meet twice a month. We also found ourselves at the same mass many times and we would sit together. Other than those occasions, we weren’t really close until she became ill again. One thing, I knew, she was a very faith-filled woman. She was always working for the poor, the homeless, those less fortunate than she was. Interestingly, to me, I found myself wondering if she needed an organ transplant and realized, I would be more than willing to donate. I never had to make that decision and I learned, I wasn’t the only one who was considering the donation.
I saw her again when I stopped into visit at the rest home where they had brought her to. They had given her 1 to 2 weeks more to live. I arrived to a group praying the Rosary. How comforting it was. She was unconscious. After a short while, her best friend and main caregiver, wanted to leave to run some errands. He asked me and another member of our group to stay with her. We both had plans but we let them go and remained. Our patient looked pretty good. Her color was good and she was breathing easily. Within 20 minutes, her color changed, her breathing changed and within another 20 minutes, she died., We were standing with her, my fellow parishioner and I, when she took her last breath. I can still see her face. She was at peace.
Something happened in that time, something profound and transforming. I don’t know yet, what the effect of this experience will be but I know, it has changed me in a miraculous way. I feel blessed. I feel honored. I feel grateful.
I believe, from previous experiences and from my education, that many people choose when to die; they chose when to let go and I believe our friend chose to die in our presence. I also believe that she took a piece of our spirit, our soul with her to heaven. I am closer to her now than I ever was before. I became her sister, her sister in Christ, in life and in death. I have been given a gift, a gift that will be with me for the rest of my life. And, with this gift, comes the responsibility to embrace life fully, especially each and every day, especially today!