In Awe of Her
By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.
The call came that she was dying. I’ve known her for 40 years. Not well. But her presence was always clearly something to be reckoned with. I remember the day we moved into the neighborhood when she sent two of her ten children to check us out--to see if our kids would be play worthy.
The kids were wild around the edges, but always seemed respectful and knew right from wrong. She was a smoker. That’s what killed her. I might have had more vices than that if I had 10 kids to herd.
The call came because she wanted to invite “old friends” in to say goodbye. For an instant I was unsure of the invitation. I wasn’t THAT close. Did they not see that this should be a private time for family only? (That’s my request for myself, not hers.) I heard that they were already keeping vigil and that the end was near. How near, I wondered. I heard those same voices in my head that others hear as well, the voices that try to justify not going to see what we don’t want to see: death.
So I did what I counsel others to do: Go. Don’t stay long. Let the dying and their friends and family know that you’re thinking of them. See if they need anything. Dying persons and their family, like everyone else, want others to know that something BIG is happening in their lives.
Nine out of the ten adult children were there, plus their spouses and their children, and aunts and uncles too. So we went, my daughter and I. After being greeted at the door, we entered and saw a sea of people who all resembled each other. They were talking, listening, laughing, crying, snoozing. All were waiting. But they were eager to welcome two more. We felt honored to be included. We took along some Remembering Hearts in case they wanted to adorn their loved one who lay dying.
I went back a little later with pizza and more Remembering Hearts. Food you can always use when you are waiting. When I saw her she was peaceful—no longer talking but still taking in life as she listened. I thanked her for all of her children with whom she was well pleased.
She was fierce in life. Like a mother bear she wouldn’t hesitate to protect her young. And in death she fiercely clung to life because she loved it and wanted more, until she finally said yes and allowed herself to be birthed into that new life that lies ahead. And her family loved her on.