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 thereâ€™s one thing I donâ€™t understand. Nora has a death doula. Iâ€™ve never heard of one before.
So, when I went to visit her, I wasnâ€™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 Noraâ€™s living room where her hospital bed was set up. â€œI hope Iâ€™m not disturbing anything.â€
â€œWelcome, Elizabeth,â€ Cynthia said. She stepped away from Noraâ€™s bed, the beads braided into her long corn rows clicking together softly. â€œIâ€™m going to the kitchen to make some herbal tea. Would you like some?â€
â€œNo, thanks,â€ I said watching her leave the room.
Reaching for Noraâ€™s hand, I whispered, â€œWhy do you need her?â€
My best friend whispered back, â€œBecause sheâ€™s an expert on death.â€
I was puzzled. â€œBut it isnâ€™t hard to die. At least I donâ€™t think it is.â€
â€œSheâ€™s going to help me transition.â€
â€œWhy? You told me you know exactly where youâ€™re going.â€
â€œOh, I do. It isnâ€™t a question of that. Itâ€™sâ€¦â€ She looked away.
I squeezed her hand. â€œI know you havenâ€™t had the best experiences.â€
She nodded. â€œYou 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.â€
Sitting silently, I allowed her to continue. â€œAnd losing a newborn baby was the worst thing Iâ€™ve ever been through. I didnâ€™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.â€ She rubbed her thumb across mine. â€œIt wasnâ€™t until a few years ago I figured out who to turn to. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ll get to see my baby boy, too.â€
â€œOkay, but I still donâ€™t understand the need for a doula.â€
â€œJesus has arranged for my soul to enter into eternal rest with Him, but Cynthia is going to care for my physical body.â€
â€œDonâ€™t you need a mortician?â€
â€œNo, except to file the death certificate and all that legal stuff.â€
Cynthia came back into the room. I hadnâ€™t realized we were no longer whispering. â€œThatâ€™s right. No need for them to whisk her body off just because she passed.â€
I looked from Cynthia to Nora. â€œDonâ€™t they have to embalm you? I mean, arenâ€™t there laws?â€
Nora chuckled. â€œNo. Actually, you donâ€™t have to be embalmed if you donâ€™t want to. Iâ€™m not even having a traditional casket. Iâ€™ve chosen a beautiful seagrass casket instead. It will break down quickly.â€
I raised my hand. â€œIâ€™m not sure I want to hear any more about that.â€
The doula smiled. â€œLetâ€™s begin.â€ She offered Nora some tea, then lit candles around the room. Their soft yellow light shimmered against the walls and across my friendâ€™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 Noraâ€™s feet with scented lotion, I started to understand. Noraâ€™s eyelids fluttered, then closed, and a peaceful smile settled on her lips.
Then Cynthia spoke to me. â€œWeâ€™ll do this again when death is imminent. When she dies, Iâ€™ll bathe her and dress her.â€ She stroked Noraâ€™s forehead. â€œCrossing over should be kind and gentle, not scary. It should be a beautiful thing.â€
â€œSheâ€™s right,â€ Nora said. â€œI know my soul is fine. I want the body the Lord gave me to be tended to also.â€
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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