Sweet is the melody, so hard to come by- It’s so hard to make every note bend just right, you lay down the hours and leave not one trace but a tune for the dancing is there in its place ~ Iris Dement
To die slowly, or to care for someone who is dying slowly, is exacting business. You think “this is all I have” and then more is required, but you are still there and mostly alright, so you were wrong, but that doesn’t keep you from thinking it again the next day or five minutes.
The human spirit is a profound mystery. In the medical field it is an unescapable mystery. There are no atheists in the foxholes, they say. No, nor on particular floors of the hospital either. Maybe in surgery or labor and delivery we can be duped into thinking we’ve got this. But in the rooms where they remove the monitors because the end of their researching has come, the elephant in the room is the soul.
Going through this the last few months, I’ve grown older and learned a great deal, all of it confirming “there’s really nothing new to say, but the old old story bears repeating and the plain old truth grows dearer every day” as Rich Mullins wrote.
Beside a death bed and through weeks of exhaustion, frustration and sorrow, we learn who we are when we can’t help it. Our wills fail so easily and the curtain of our practiced discipline parts to reveal the long-formed hidden character.
I have never been more deeply and humbly grateful to be a Christian. Salvation as a undeserved gift seems more than ever true. Grief and turmoil hit us all like a semi, but for those in Christ there is simply Someone There to sustain you, restrain you, nourish you, put you to sleep, make the sun rise, surprise you with joy.
I’ve also never been more grateful to be a homemaker. Pain is clarifying and I have discovered at the end of the day, at the end of a life, the ones who took care of you, with your real physical, personal needs, are the ones with genuine worth. The ones who have loved you in your daily mundane cares, mess and hunger are those you love, and there is no greater calling on this earth than to love and be loved.
Homemaking is not just for the married. It is for any woman who wants to meet the pressing needs, which are unpaid, untitled and culturally inglorious, but fulfilling and meaningful, especially when pursued faithfully and with courage.
Dying people need mothers.
Homemaking, I’ve discovered, is about pots and pans, shovels and brooms, laundry hampers and grocery lists. It’s also about a welcoming hospitable heart.
It takes fortitude to open the door to needy people and humility to recognize your need and step inside the door graciously yourself.
We were each other’s guest and each other’s welcomer, wrote Wendall Berry on marriage, and it seems to me the bottom line of domestic tranquility and impossible to accomplish in marriage if you’re not accustomed to living this way already.
And lastly, I’m grateful for morning coffee and afternoon tea. Having survived several days this week without either, I can testify that God’s greatest gifts are often, indeed, his commonest.