The last time she saw him. She knew he was there, could feel the air in the room, heavy with his presence. Her eyes were too heavy. To open. As much as she wanted to. She physically couldn’t. Her body. Was letting go.
But her mind was present. It was as if she had never moved from her childhood bedroom in Minnesota. Thoughts were clear and she was more than ready to do the things that she never did. But her fingers didn’t move quite the same. Her feet barely shuffled, even when her brain told her to run. Her lips didn’t quite form the vowel sounds that the clear voice inside was trying to speak. And she was just so very tired. Like her blood has settled, deep in her heart, and wouldn’t fill the nerve endings with the energy to move. But she could still recite the beloved lines of Shakespeare. She could recall the history of the French Revolution. She just couldn’t make the sounds, that anyone would care to hear. Today.
But he still was there. For her. With her. Sitting patiently. Even when she could say nothing of interest. He was there. She could hear his words. She could feel the warmth. And she understood. That she is not alone.
But they both knew. That this was the last time. Her breath was shallow. His words were few. The coldness pressed against the familiar. And the darkness waited on the threshold. But the florescent light wouldn’t let it overcome. Not yet.
He sat rigid in the worn down recliner. She lay loosed in the metal bed. They both were calm. They both were prepared. For what they knew was the worst.
Forcing herself to open her eyes, she thought she saw him. They were in the sanctuary, warm air, footsteps, soft voices, maroon carpet, cherry wood, deep words, soft dress. Calm. Safe. Peace. She thought she saw that right then and there. She thought that’s where she saw him. She thought that’s where she was.
But the only thing that remained. Deep words. Calm. Safe. Peace. She wasn’t where her weakened eyes had tricked her to believe. No, she was actually dying in a rehabilitation center. The air conditioner wafted its sterile scent all over the flimsy sheet. That was the only barrier between her and the evil morning, that tried to choke out her last breath.
She felt a heavy grasp, a solid statue overshadowing her frame, pressing his fingers into her palm. He held on tight enough to ground her into that bed. Into that room. Into that morning where she felt that her body and soul was slipping away.
Not moving. Either one. Still as rocks. But living and breathing and holding. Strong and weak. Her in force. Him in answer. There was nothing more to say. Nothing more to do. It was excruciatingly obvious that he could not fix this situation. He could not exert his words or his will or his muscle to make one difference in this room today. It was the great enemy that he had faced so many times, and have not yet found the way to defeat. it.
She felt a deep sadness under her rib cage. Not from the exhaustion of drawing the next breath. Rather, that she was taking these precious minutes from his life. As he sat here, this morning, to gaze upon her death. How selfish she had become. An art exhibit of frailty and decay for a vigorous man to look upon with pity. He had so many other things to do with his time. She didn’t want this for him. Watching her. Die.
Eternity, in the last labored inhales on this earth. The little girl inside tasted chicken soup on the back of her dry cotton tongue. Laying in her childhood bed listening for her mother’s song, that could relax the chill at the back of her neck. She could barely hear that. Her mother’s whisper. And at the same time, the buzz of the machines from the hallway outside. Connecting her synapses back to the present moment.
What was he doing here. When she couldn’t even speak to him, she had nothing more to give. Why was she even still here, just sucking the minutes and the life and the remaining time from the people whom she loved. Why would God allow her to do that. Now.
But he stayed. And held her hand. And spoke. In his deep, deep way. When she started slipping, away, again. His touch, those words, kept pulling her back, into the room.
Into your hands. He said for her. I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. He spoke her words aloud. Let your holy angel be with me. Inhale. And let the wicked foe have no power over me. Exhale.
This was the time when she only began to understand. After 92 years of understandings. The peace that passes. All understanding. She’s known of its existence. She’s felt it in part, at times, but always believed that there was more. More peace. And more understanding.
And yet he was still there. And it was not lost on him that this was the last time. She had taught him more than she would ever know. Her conversations from her well-read past. Her patient steadfast faith when she couldn’t make it to church as often as she would like. Her kind way of offering counter points to him in Sunday morning Bible study. Her gentle excitement when he showed up at her front door with the body of blood of Jesus, packed gently in the tiny wooden case. And he was just there. Even today, when she finally realized, when he finally knew, that her failing body wouldn’t allow her to have another conversation. Again. Ever.
Into your hands. She sunk deeper into his hand. Not memory, not blackness, his hand. Her body. Her soul. Her minutes. Her memory. Her regret. Her resistance. All things.
Peace. Moments. Pictures. Visions. Love. Word. Inhale.
Peace. Into your hand. Amen.