Monday, 24 September 2012

Life, Death and What Comes After

Yesterday morning I awoke feeling refreshed and full of vitality.  It has been a while since I've been to church so I decided that today was a good day to go.  I arrived and it was so nice to see my friends in the choir and in the congregation.  I'm able to sing a little now but not very much and so I still sit in the congregation even though I'd like to be up in the choir.  I enjoyed the service but was saddened to hear that an acquaintance is now in palliative care with another form of cancer.  This disease seems to be everywhere.  As a result, I just wanted to go home and be surrounded by my family.

As I was in the doorway of the sanctuary and ready to leave, the minister asked for everyone's attention and quiet.  She had just received a phone call informing her that my friend, who was in her last days, had passed away at 9:30 a.m.  My heart, already saddened and burdened, became very heavy and achy.  Tears came unbidden to my eyes as I tried to control them.  My friend had been in the twilight of her life but she was full of energy and vigour.  Up until last Fall, she had been leading exercise classes.  She had more energy than I did.  I remember a time when the church had a talent show.  Partway through the program, she got up and led everyone in some short, easy exercises just to keep us all from sitting too long watching the performances.  I will always remember her telling us all that when we watch television or movies on television, every time there is a commercial, get up and do some lunges or gentle stretches.  She always arrived at choir practice with her Timmies and if you got to church earlier enough on a Sunday morning, you would see her with her Timmies.  She was a caring woman who was interested in everything and everybody around her.  She cared for her daughter as she was diagnosed with ALS disease and she cared for her right through to the end.  This was such a sad time and I remember thinking what a strong woman my friend was.  She asked me to sing "On Eagles' Wings" at her daughter's funeral.  She became such a rock for her granddaughters after that.  My friend always was dressed so nicely with her hair just so.  She always had different hand bags that were always so nice.  I remember her having a bright purple one and then a bronze coloured one.  I will always remember her laugh.  She was always so interested in my children and how they were coping with growing up.  As they hit the teenage years, my friend was a source of wisdom, experience and guidance.  Even when I saw her last week (a week before she died!), she was asking about how my daughter and son were doing.  She always wondered about their well-being at school and socially.

Yesterday, I struggled with my grief.  Then tonight (as it is in the middle of the night here as I write this), I awoke thinking of a book I had read this summer called "Heaven Is For Real".  In it, a 3 year old boy has a near death experience while being operated on for a ruptured appendix.  He meets Jesus who is sitting at the right side of God.  He also gets to meet his grandfather for the first time.  This little boy also meets his big sister who was miscarried part way through the pregnancy.  I awoke and I envisioned my friend making her transition from the hospital to seeing God and Jesus face-to-face.  I also envisioned her seeing her husband and then being reunited with her daughter who she missed so much since she died.  This has brought me comfort.  She is/was the type of person that she would want us to grasp our lives fully and live them with interest and vigour.  I'll miss her vitality.  I'll miss her laugh.  I'll miss her brightness.  I'm praying for her best friend who is another friend of mine.  They were like sisters and did so much together.  At choir practice, I would hear them talking about shopping together, meeting for tea together, having meals together or just spending an evening together watching a movie.  It's so hard on those left behind when a life ends here.

As I see friends and acquaintances getting diagnosed with cancer and fighting valiantly to survive, I sometimes feel sad and confused.  Why did I get the one with the better cure rate?  Why did they get the diagnosis without much hope?  I don't know the answers to these but I'm starting to learn to feel thankful and a real sense of the grace of God.  I have been given a second chance at life and I will continue to live it to the fullest.  As I mentioned in my last post, I'm also learning that living life to the fullest means experiencing the emotional highs and lows as well.  I will have a full week as I have my teaching in the first part of the week and I also have a Celebration of Life in memory of my very good friend's mother who died in August.  I am a firm believer that memories are a great comfort to us when our family and friends pass on.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry about your friend, Cathy. It sounds like she was a lovely person. There is nothing that anyone can say to make it easier. I hope she is resting in peace. I'm not sure why some people leave too soon. And it's definitely hard on those left behind. You are right that living life to the fullest means experiencing the highs and lows.