Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REFUGE (08/29/19)
TITLE: A Beautiful Death
By Betty Castleberry
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From the moment she was given the diagnosis, her attitude has been positive, but there’s one thing I don’t understand. Nora has a death doula. I’ve never heard of one before.
So, when I went to visit her, I wasn’t aware Cynthia, her death doula, would be there. Nora invited me in, her movements sloth-like and determined. Nora could always run circles around me. It was strange to see her almost in slow-motion.
I entered Nora’s living room where her hospital bed was set up. “I hope I’m not disturbing anything.”
“Welcome, Elizabeth,” Cynthia said. She stepped away from Nora’s bed, the beads braided into her long corn rows clicking together softly. “I’m going to the kitchen to make some herbal tea. Would you like some?”
“No, thanks,” I said watching her leave the room.
Reaching for Nora’s hand, I whispered, “Why do you need her?”
My best friend whispered back, “Because she’s an expert on death.”
I was puzzled. “But it isn’t hard to die. At least I don’t think it is.”
“She’s going to help me transition.”
“Why? You told me you know exactly where you’re going.”
“Oh, I do. It isn’t a question of that. It’s…” She looked away.
I squeezed her hand. “I know you haven’t had the best experiences.”
She nodded. “You can say that again. I had an abusive husband who sent me to the hospital more than once before I finally got the courage to leave.”
Sitting silently, I allowed her to continue. “And losing a newborn baby was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. I didn’t want to live anymore when I lost him. I went through a lot after that, bouncing around between jobs, trying to find my footing again.” She rubbed her thumb across mine. “It wasn’t until a few years ago I figured out who to turn to. That’s why I’m not the least bit afraid to die. Death is going to be a pleasant escape because I know Jesus will be waiting for me, just as He promised. No more pain, no more worries, and I’ll get to see my baby boy, too.”
“Okay, but I still don’t understand the need for a doula.”
“Jesus has arranged for my soul to enter into eternal rest with Him, but Cynthia is going to care for my physical body.”
“Don’t you need a mortician?”
“No, except to file the death certificate and all that legal stuff.”
Cynthia came back into the room. I hadn’t realized we were no longer whispering. “That’s right. No need for them to whisk her body off just because she passed.”
I looked from Cynthia to Nora. “Don’t they have to embalm you? I mean, aren’t there laws?”
Nora chuckled. “No. Actually, you don’t have to be embalmed if you don’t want to. I’m not even having a traditional casket. I’ve chosen a beautiful seagrass casket instead. It will break down quickly.”
I raised my hand. “I’m not sure I want to hear any more about that.”
The doula smiled. “Let’s begin.” She offered Nora some tea, then lit candles around the room. Their soft yellow light shimmered against the walls and across my friend’s face, reflecting her look of calm. I did not see one trace of fear. Reaching into a lovely wicker basket, Cynthia scattered tiny, pink rose petals over the bed. She sang Blessed Assurance in a soft, rich voice as she lit incense. The clean fragrance danced lightly into the room and a feeling of tranquility filled the space. When she began to massage Nora’s feet with scented lotion, I started to understand. Nora’s eyelids fluttered, then closed, and a peaceful smile settled on her lips.
Then Cynthia spoke to me. “We’ll do this again when death is imminent. When she dies, I’ll bathe her and dress her.” She stroked Nora’s forehead. “Crossing over should be kind and gentle, not scary. It should be a beautiful thing.”
“She’s right,” Nora said. “I know my soul is fine. I want the body the Lord gave me to be tended to also.”
I decided then I wanted this kind of loving care for my physical body, too. But even more, I wanted loving care for my soul. I knew I needed Jesus.
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