Saying goodbye is hard, especially when it is a final goodbye. The one that comes at the end of an earthly life when a medical diagnosis cuts it short. The last goodbye can take place over days, weeks, months and sometimes years when time slows and quickens unpredictably. Sometimes we, the living get to say to the dying the words that are in our heart, sometimes we do not.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that the final goodbye is in the sole control and power of the dying and their God. It is their choice how and when it happens and who they allow close enough to experience any part of it. I understand this now and I respect it. Years of losing dear female friends and family members has taught me this.
Some have chosen to skip the final chapter, closing their story with me in the middle of a sentence. Time has taught me it was what they needed for their journey, but my experience of the moment was that it hurt: a sudden unexpected kick in my gut when their life ended and I still wanted more chapters of our story together.
Some have chosen to allow me to walk beside them. To experience their journey in a way that made me feel valued as a person in their life. They also allowed me the opportunity to show and tell them how important they have been and will always be in my life.
And then there is the one who invited me into one of the most precious moments of her life – the moment that life left her, my beloved aunt.
Several years before my aunt died, I lost my mother. I wanted to be by her side the moment she died. She had given me my life and I felt the need to be with her when she left hers. It was what I wanted, but I eventually realized it was not what she wanted.
I did not understand this in those raw dark moments before dawn when my father, sister and I hugged and cried after receiving the call from the hospital telling us she was gone. It was the first time one of the three of us had not been by her side for several days. Yet, even when nearly every ounce of life was gone from her body, my mother’s soul “chose” who would be by her side when her final breath came. She chose wisely.
Experiencing the miracle of my aunt’s death, with my uncle and cousin together in the room, allowed me to understand that my mother had wanted to protect my sister and me, and especially our father, from the intensity of that moment.
While intense, the moment of my aunt’s death was also beautiful, filled with love and the miracle of life given through God’s grace and I am thankful I was there. Part of me still wishes I could have held my own mother’s hand, but I know now that her choice in her last moments of her life was her final act of motherly love. She knew, better than I, what was best for me and my sister, her babies, as well as for her beloved husband, our father.
I continue to be grateful for the women in my life who have shown me in the way they walked through life by my side, and in the way they chose to say goodbye as they died, their love, compassion, and trust.
I love you all. I continue to listen for your voices, and I look forward to the day we will be together again. I pray that someday those I love, and have to leave, will have the same faith in my choice that I now have in each of yours.
Till we meet again,