How do you say goodbye when someone you love is in the last days on Earth? How do you reconcile the once vibrant healthy person with the frail shell you see in the hospital bed? How do speak to them and honor them in their final days?
Christians believe that in the afterlife your soul is transported to heaven to be with Christ.
Buddhists believe that life does not end. Life goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma.
If you are Jewish, one does not know what happens in the afterlife. It is important to live in the present and be the best person you can while on Earth.
No matter what your religion or beliefs are on death, those left living mourn because we cannot converse with or hug our loved one after they pass away. We are left with the vessels of our memories and the snapshots taken through history.
I felt like I may cry in the airport on the way to L.A. to visit Chris’ grandmother Marshie. I felt like I would cry when I first saw her, usually laughing and happy, now speechless and motionless on the last days of her life. I finally surrendered to the tears when the Rabbi sang her the prayers.
Marshie was someone who loved her family unconditionally. It didn’t matter what kind of person you were, if you were a part of Marshie’s family, there was nothing but love coming from her. There is family rivalry, ego, jealousy, competition, grudges and misunderstandings. These are all part of being a family. Except in Marshie’s world if you were family, there was only love. Nothing else mattered.
The hospice nurse was turning Marshie from one side to the other to prevent bedsores, and pushing morphine and anti-psychotics through a small syringe that would absorb into the lining of her mouth. We left the room during this time. We sat out in the living room of the assisted care home and we spoke to the Rabbi about death. We discussed what we would tell our children when we got home and had to share the news when the time came that their great-grandmother had passed.
When we first told the kids we were going to L.A. to say goodbye to their great-grandmother, they tried to understand what that meant. Preston said that Marshie’s death is a life cycle – she was born and had children and now she will die but her children have children, and that is the cycle of life.
The Rabbi says that you should not speak to children of dying in terms of being “sick” because then when they or a family member are sick, they may associate that with death. She said that we should tell the children that we won’t be able to see Marshie anymore, but she will always be in our hearts. We must not be afraid to speak of Marshie and remember the good memories.
We made our way back into the room to say our final goodbye. We gave her butterfly kisses with our eyelashes because she loved butterfly kisses. I whispered goodbye in her ear and told her she doesn’t have to hold on anymore. It was time to see Hermie, the love of her life.
I believe when someone is dying, they hold on as long as they can to say their silent goodbyes and hear their families tell them they are loved.
At the end of your life when you are old and on your deathbed, it doesn’t matter how big your house was or how fancy your car. Nobody will remember your expensive designer clothes. It doesn’t matter that somebody wronged you or that you never lost that 10 pounds. In the end, all that matters is that you have lived a life full of love, and your reward will be evident in the family that surrounds you the days leading up to your final breath.
This was Marshie’s legacy.