Evening dawned. The red sky faded to purple, to black. The artificial light from the quiet little room intensified as the sun descended into the deep. Just outside the window, the world disappeared into black. On the inside of the glass, false brightness made the gloom more forbidding. Blankets and pillows, space heaters and rugs could not keep the impending dark chill out. Shadows spilled into the room and no one there was able to stop it.
Her breath fought its way past cracked lips in an uneven tempo. Now shallow and sputtering, it was nothing like the clean inhales from her youth. Each time the air escaped, she wondered if this would be the last. Momentarily reveling in the emptiness of her lungs, her body was immediately exhausted from unconsciously drawing the next. How many seconds until death had she counted over the last couple of years? How long until the darkness would finally overcome?
Looking intently at the vibrant beautiful colors in the sky outside her window, she watched them melt into the cold abyss of night. Her eyes faded with the setting of the sun. She could not remember if she closed her eyelids to sleep or was engulfed by the blackness of her dwindling dreams. But all was dark and quiet now. No more fluorescent lightbulbs to pry her tired eyes open. No more gurgling phlegm to prompt her to count the agonizing seconds until the end.
But this was different than before. She felt the rush of a breeze throughout her whole being. Whirling and tumbling, like a bird soaring through the heavens. She could not see or hear. Really, she just was. Tossed about by currents and noises, she tried to get her bearings. But she had nothing to grab hold of. When she thought to reach out her hand, there was none. When she tried to plant a foot on the ground, she collapsed into herself and hung in the air.
At one point, she brushed over a familiar, unmoving corpse. Course hair she remembered brushing a million times. Wrinkled and creviced hands which had carefully embraced the infant heads of her children. Dry, leathered cheeks sealed with a lifetime of kisses from her late husband. The body she had loved, abused, nursed to health, and died inside lay motionless in the quiet little room. She was no longer imprisoned by her atrophied frame, but she knew and loved that body. Her pain and suffering had faded into rest, but it was still not right.
Her new freedom should have been a cause to rejoice. She rode on the winds of the Saints, gathered with the great cloud of witnesses. She should have floated into eternal bliss now that her broken body was put to sleep. But the breath of God given to her was still waiting for something more. Hands to serve her neighbor, feet to bring the good news, lips to sing the praises of God, her body and breath reunited, as it was created to be.
Finally, doing only what breath can do, she cried, “How long, oh Lord?”
“Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete” (Revelation 6:11).
Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)