Monday, September 03, 2007

Death's Labor Pains on Labor Day

Today at 4:10pm, my beloved step-father left this world as we surrounded his bed to witness his final breaths. As he moved through the stages of the dying process over the last 48 hours, I became more and more certain that the end was drawing ever closer, perhaps more rapidly than I originally surmised it might. His struggle to allow his spirit to leave his body was truly like labor, and we were the midwives and cheerleaders along his triumphant road to freedom.

Just as it happens around the world at every hour under the sun, people came and went from my parents' home over these last days, and we all played our parts in the unfolding drama according to our individual roles and skills. My step-father's lovely daughters, sons-in-law, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren all added to the quality of the times shared under this roof, and his final days were filled with loving visits and calming energy. One visitor, a Stephen Minister by vocation, remarked that Spirit was "just pouring through the house", and he praised our little home hospice with words of benediction.

Losing myself in the minutiae of my step-dad's hourly care, I realized that my grieving process was being (somewhat necessarily) truncated by my self-imposed duties of conductor, coordinator, choreographer, and caregiver. Even as others found moments to cry, my reservoir was seemingly dry. But when the moment came and he took his final breath, we all huddled around the bed, and the tears and sobs came in torrents, releasing days of unexpressed stress and grief. It is said that "unshed tears will make other organs weep". I wrung some organs dry today, so to speak, and now I can sleep the rest of the exhausted along with the rest of our family.

His death was a fine one, navigated with grace, dignity, and a collective benevolence of spirit. Now we can be certain that our dear loved one is winging his way to a place of deserved beauty and peace, and our efforts here on Earth sent him with enormous love to fuel his journey.
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