This sickness has drained my strength. Dehydrated my flesh until I am bones encased in withered leather. I am not uncomfortable, yet death is seeping from every pore. My body is dying but my mind lives on. Even as I lie here, I’m fully aware of my surroundings. Rays of sunshine spilling across the floor. Particles of dust suspended in warm air. Starched, white figures that move in and out, checking my monitors, fussing with my charts. Some of them chat to me although I cannot reply. The hissing monster that breathes for me has taken care of that.
Dying is a lonely process. My family have been circling like vultures for weeks. Waiting to pounce on my worldly goods. But they seldom visit, confident of my impending death. My friends too have deserted me. I can imagine their tongues wagging at Bible class.
“It’ll be a merciful release when she goes.”
“There’s not much point in visiting. She’s totally out of it.”
“She’s reached a ripe old age.”
These days, my only regular visitor is Pastor Bob. He was never my favorite. In fact, I found his preaching wishy washy, his clothing loud, and I hated the way he combs his hair over to disguise that bald spot. I was wrong and have taken back all my judgments and learnt to love Bob for who he is.
He sits at my bedside today and tenderly enfolds my useless claw in his strong grasp. The staff offer him a cup of tea and he smiles and chats with them for a moment. Then it is my turn. “I hear you had a good night Joanie. I’m glad about that. Now I have some interesting news to tell you.” He updates me on church happenings, on the headlines of today’s news, on the birth of a new baby in his family. It is comforting to hear his voice and I wish again that I could respond. He’s praying now. “Father, I ask for a special blessing on Joanie today. Let her hear and understand Your words and may they bring her great comfort at this time.” He releases my hand and opens his Bible. The navy cover is worn white in places and I know he deeply treasures the words contained within.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s from Romans 8 verse 39, Joanie. (NIV)
I feel peaceful, joyful as my heart suddenly lurches within, sending the monitors into shrieking discords. Medical staff pour into the room and somehow, I am above them. Hovering over my body as they try to revive my wretched remains.
“Don’t feel bad.” I want to tell them. “This is what I want. My time has come. Just let me go.”
I see Bob standing in the corner. Forlorn, forgotten, fragile. The brilliance of heaven is beckoning but I pause for a second. “Thank you. Thank you Bob for caring.” The doctors are still pounding my chest, pumping drugs into my body, but Bob looks up. His expression bemused. Could it be that he heard me? I speak again, my voice firm and clear. “Thank you Bob. Thank you for showing God’s love to me. You’re a true friend.” Understanding washes his face with joy. He can hear me. God’s final gift to me on earth. Eyes brimming, he raises a hand in farewell as I go to be with my Savior.
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