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  • Tina Thomas, Sr. Warden

The Circle of Life

Tina Thomas, Sr. Warden

When thinking about something meaningful to say today, I of course read the lessons and tried to make a correlation. The second lesson is about resurrection. So while I am not sure about resurrection right now, I know just a little about death. I have now witnessed the two most important people in my life, my father and mother, take their last breath: Quietly, peacefully and in their own homes.

Most of you know that my mother died in December and I want to thank you all for the notes, calls, and emails to help me through that time. I have for ten years believed that my dad, while not resurrected, has come back to visit in the form of a hawk. When I asked my mother what bird she might be, she explained that she really didn’t like birds but wanted to be a bunny. Jury is still out on that but it is fun to think about.

But seriously, I want to talk about GIVING BIRTH and the opposite what I think of as TAKING DEATH, the beginning and the end. The Circle of Life. I think that we all might agree that Giving birth is a miracle. But it is also a life event that you had to plan for and you were even given about nine months to do that. And plan we did….

How many of you read “What to expect when expecting.”? or any other book about the advent of your child’s birth. Maybe even a few fathers out there took the time to read it as well. The nursery was painted, supplies and a crib were purchased. Showers were held. Most of us even went to birthing classes to learn how to handle all that might happen. Ready was the operative word!

In my opinion, we need to spend a little more time preparing for the flipside: The miracle of death. My mother was prepared to “take death.” She really contemplated how she would like her final months and days would go and had a very good plan that she made sure all of her children understood. Thanks to her directives and willingness to embrace hospice and the gifts of the hospice plan and nurses she had a “good death”. She read books and articles and thought about the process. She took my sister and me aside and told the story of Eunice Shriver, who when her daughter Maria sat crying by her side and stated, “What will I do without you?” Her reply was “I brought you up better than that. You will be just fine!” and every time I start to think what will I do without her, I realize that I am just fine.

And let me interject here by saying that in the midst of the hospice time, there were many laughs, a few tears but lots of hugs.

On a funnier side, when we asked her if we could get a hospital bed into the room to help her sleep better sitting up, she refused but agreed to a reclining chair. We found a cute blue little one. My mother was tiny by 90 and as my brother and I carried it in I could hear her in the background saying, “I can’t believe I am going to die in a Barker Lounger.” So funny. Or when I came into cover her up in the middle of the night and she opened one eye and quoted one of her favorite lines in a Monty Python Movie. “I’m NOT DEAD YET!”

When my dad died, we asked all family members and a few dear friends to write a little something about dad and we put it in a booklet that we handed out to people at the funeral. GREAT stories that Dad would have loved to have heard. Mum died on December 9th, but we had at the beginning of November sent out an email to many friends and all family to send cards, letters and notes in honor of her birthday which was December 26th. In the back of my mind, we sort of knew that her death was coming as well. Notes and letters came in from far and wide and during those last days we were able to share them with her. It was a delight to see how much those letters and sentiments meant to her. “ From her Barker Lounger, “I never knew I was so loved.”

On the sad side, my mother is no longer physically here on this earth. I can hear her voice, I want to pick up the phone and talk to her every day. In fact, I call her message machine. I will miss her wit, her knowledge, her art with the written word, her hugs and advice. But on the happy side, I know that my mother lived a long and fruitful and productive life.

What I want to encourage everyone to do is to think about death a little bit more. At least for nine months.

Try reading, Being Mortal by Atul Guwande : a personal meditation on how we can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness and approaching death.

At Peace: Choosing a Good Death after a Long Life. By Dr. Samuel Harrington. AT PEACE outlines specific active and passive steps that older patients and their health-care proxies can take to ensure loved ones live their last days comfortably at home and/or in hospice when further aggressive care is inappropriate.

Learn about Death Café whose objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'. And as far as I know we all do have end dates coming.

I guess it is the teacher in me, but I have a handout at the back of the church and you can always email me and I will send it to you. It is a list of questions I found that will at least let you start a conversation about the subject so many people have a hard time contemplating. And not all of them are doom and gloom. Thank you for listening.

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