There Comes a Time

There Comes a Time

There comes a time in all our lives when we must prepare for death. When we become old, get seriously ill, or are in great danger, we can’t be preoccupied simply with the question of how to get better unless “getting better” means moving on to a life beyond our death. In our culture, which in so many ways is death oriented, we find little if any creative support for preparing ourselves for a good death. Most people presume that our only desire is to live longer on this earth. Still, dying, like giving birth, is a way to new life, and as Ecclesiastes says: “There is a season for everything: … a time for giving birth, a time for dying”  We have to prepare ourselves for our death with the same care and attention as our parents prepared themselves for our births.

     Henri Nouwen

This morning we visited with a man who is in his final days.   His family waits.  Their goodbyes have been said.  Their love for him expressed.  He is prepared.  So are they.  As much as each of them can be.  

Most of us want to avoid being near death or talking about it as much as we possibly can.  It’s uncomfortable for us, frightening, forbidding.  So, we try not to think about it and shy away from preparing for it.  The more we deny it, death’s reality, the more we hope it will never be real.  Yet, we know, despite our denials, that it is. 

All of his children were there today, along with his wife.  They’re spending the nights to help and to give and receive support.  Grandchildren come and go.  His wife said that if we would come back at 7 tonight, there’d be a houseful.  After work and school all the grandkids come by to share every last moment they can.  It’s obvious they all love him.  Dearly.  While they don’t want him to go, they know it’s time.  They’ve given him permission.  They’ve said what they’ve wanted to say.  They’ve expressed their love.  They’re surrounding him with that love and devotion and tenderness.  It’s evident and strong.  They’re exhausted.  This wait is excruciating at times.  They’re on edge.  They are tired.  

But yet they surround him to make certain that his transition from this life is comfortable, peaceful and, again, enveloped in love.  It’s beautiful, actually, their care, their faithfulness.  

And they laugh, too.  A soothing balm, that laughter, coming when it’s often needed most.  Kidding each other as siblings do.  Making fun of how one of them cooks.  Of another who’s always cold.  And another who was too hot.  They laugh because that’s what families do and they laugh to reassure themselves that everything will be okay.  They pray that the laughter soothes their father too, and maybe breaks through the veil of his ever-diminishing consciousness to remind him of their presence, of their love.

He is leaving a legacy for them.  His death is bonding them ever stronger, showing them the preciousness of life, moving them to say what needs to be said, to put priorities where they need to be, to care for one another in their common grief, their common love.  

If death can be good, then this one is.  Perhaps it is good because a father’s lifetime of devotion, faith, caring and love is carrying his family through this intimate time of his passing.   And giving them a model for a life well lived. 

It was a sacred privilege to share this intimate time with this family.  We learned from them and are grateful for their lesson of compassion and gratitude for the man who gave them love and life.


Join the movement! Sign up for our newsletter.