I watched my mother-in-law die this morning. Her labored breathing — “chain breathing,” I believe the charge nurse called it — grew quieter, slower, more shallow, and at 6:15 a.m., 12 days shy of her 85th birthday, she finally won her decades-old battle to gain release from a body that always seemed more enemy than friend.
I know of no one who suffered more through the decades than her. She survived cancer — twice. She underwent open heart surgery and two angioplasties and at least three heart attacks (that we know of). She had three hip replacements. She had arthritis and osteoporosis. In the end, a ridiculous fractured pelvis cause complications that her poor heart couldn’t cope with. Her body was, indeed, a battlefield, with the scarred landscape to prove it.
In the 35 years I knew her, I never heard her utter a single word in expression of bitterness or resentment at her situation. Anger? Perhaps a touch, but it was always a tool for overcoming obstacles, instead of surrendering to them. Her usual demeanor was one of humility, grace and humor, and people around her went away feeling uplifted, even if they came to her with the intention of lifting her up.
We miss her, of course…terribly. But none of us would wish to draw her back from where she is now. In the hours before she passed, moving in and out of lucidity, she spoke of climbing out of the bed, getting in her car, grabbing a hamburger and just…going.
I imagine her arriving at the gates of heaven in a large-finned Caddy, one strong healthy arm draped out the window, and empty Burger King bag at her side. She’s gotten her wish…she got to leave, and her destination is more wonderful than anything we can ever imagine.
Lil, we’ll join you someday; keep the motor running, sweet lady. And I call dibs on shotgun.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”