They were locked in a tight embrace, wailing, when I entered the living room. I had made a beeline to the powder room as soon as C and I arrived. What could have happened in such a short time?
“Don’t mind us,” Laura said, “we’re just a couple of blubbering old ladies.”
“Did you have a rough night?”
“No, not a rough night, but a rough day yesterday.”
“What can we do for you, Laura?,” asked C, as she released her embrace.
“Just be with me.”
So we sat with her and talked quietly. Her husband was working from home – his computer and papers spread out on the dining room table. He came in to ask her if, based on their conversation the night before, she still wanted him to call hospice. They had put hospice in place when she left the hospital, but they had not yet needed their services. Laura nodded yes. It was time.
She dozed off and on all day. Whenever she dozed, C and I took her dogs into the backyard to play. Or we sat with them on the porch.
On the porch I asked C why she and Laura were crying earlier. She said the sight of Laura’s skin – so much more yellow than it was the last time C saw her – brought an instant flood of tears.
All that dozing must have been good for Laura because, by late afternoon, she began to perk up a bit. Which was good, because her son was on his way home from college for the weekend and some very close friends were coming over to grill “Jeff burgers.”
Before we left, C asked Laura if there was one thing she learned through all of this that she wanted others to know.
“First of all,” she said with her weak, raspy voice, “I have absolutely no doubt about where I am going.” She scratched her ultrashort, newly-regrown-in hair-covered head and continued, “You either have faith or you don’t. Through this whole thing I always knew that whatever happened, I would be okay.”
She had always been afraid of cancer.
And it was cancer that tested her faith. Six years ago, alone in her hospital room, after the surgeon delivered the horrible news and all of us had gone home. Fear overcame her, just for a minute, and then a palpable peace came and pushed it away. She knew she was going to be okay. Her faith was proved genuine that day.
“We have it backwards,” she said, “we should be mourning birth and celebrating death.” She is right. Though this life holds many beautiful sights and wonderful blessings, it also holds a lot of sorrow. When you have no doubt that you are going to a place that holds only beauty and blessings – a place with with no heartache at all – death is reason to celebrate.
“It would be easier to celebrate your death if you weren’t so young,” I whisper/sighed.
I told her what I had been wanting to tell her. I told her (no offense, C) that she had always been my favorite sister; that I had always looked up to her; that I had always loved her SO MUCH. And then I apologized for making her cry.
C told a parable about a man who was going on a journey up a mountain. He could hear his family and friends weeping and wailing and shouting their goodbyes as he climbed. But, as he crested the mountain, he heard cheering and glad hellos coming from the other side.
“Give dad a big hug and a kiss for me,” I said, “I can see him, greeting you with a big smile and wide open arms.”
“It was a good visit,” she whispered as we hugged her goodbye.
On the journey back to my house, I called my mom from the passenger seat of C’s car to let her know how Laura was doing. When I mentioned that hospice would be coming over the weekend, she started to sob. “I’m sorry, mom, maybe I shouldn’t have told you.” “No,” she said, “I knew it was coming.”
I told C how glad I was that I got to tell Laura how much she meant to me. And I started listing all the things I have loved and admired about her over the years. And then I sobbed, too.
The tears felt good as they washed against the healing underside of my eyelid.
On the way to Laura’s that morning, C and I stopped at the ophthalmic surgeon’s office for my follow up appointment.. The pathologist’s report held good news. The lesion was “nothing scary.” Just inflamed tissue – no one knows why it happens and, unfortunately, it might happen again in another spot.
But at least it’s not cancer. And that was good news. Because my 85 year old mother could not take any more.
Thank you for all the kindness you’ve extended to me, blogging friends, and for all your prayers for my sister, her family and me. I’ve been thanking God for the blessing you all are to me.
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace.