This afternoon, I stopped by to visit you in your care home. I walked the mile from our house on this foggy, mild winter day. You would have liked this day.
As I walked into your ward and down the hall to your room, I heard a man yelling from one of the rooms, "HELP! WILL SOMEBODY HELP ME?" He was confused and scared and senile. I thought about how he once would have been a strong, young man who had a family and worked hard to provide for them. I know that if I were to go into his room, there would be pictures of him back when he was living, living instead of living, dead.
As I came to your room, the door was shut so I knew you would still be in bed from your nap. I pushed the door open and an alarm went off - to help the nurses keep track of you when you wander. I reached up and turned off the alarm and slipped in and shut the door behind me. The air in your room was heavy. I stifled a gag. You must need to be cleaned up, and the nurses will be in soon to get you up and wash you. I don't call them. The process would take up all my time to visit you.
I walk over to your bed. It is placed against the wall - more in bedroom fashion then hospital fashion. You are covered with a brightly colored flannel quilt and you clutch a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear in your arms. Your body is so thin and wasted and hardly makes a bump under the sheet. I sit on the bed and take your hand. You look at me - through me - with tiny, sunken eyes in a flat, expressionless face. My eyes fill with tears. Is this really my Mother? The living, gracious, graceful woman that raised me? You are but a living dead now Mother. Your face and eyes cannot relate any emotions or love. Your hands either are held with the fingers unnaturally strait or clutching. Those hands did so much - created so much. Now they just stroke, clutch, stroke at a child's teddy bear.
I watch you for some time - your head moves compulsively back and forth, back and forth on the pillow. Every once in a while (is it every four times?) you stop and kind of grimace - at first I thought you were smiling at me - but no, it was more like barring your teeth - an empty, hallow movement - nothing more.
I sit there by you. On the edge of the bed. Like a mother by a sick child, but without any hope this side of heaven. The tears stream down my face and I grieve.
I look around the room at the bulletin boards - covered with pictures of the living - your daughters, your son, your grandchildren, your sisters. We have all gone on living while you have gone on dying.
Oh, Lord, is it wrong to pray that the process of dying would be shortened for you? for Dad? for us all? Is it wrong to hope that you die, soon? I don't know. I just sit on the edge of your bed and groan - I know the Spirit will interpret my groans before the throne of God and I will trust it to Him.
When I leave you, I stroke your cheek and tell you that I love you and pray aloud that the Lord would be with you. You look up at me - is there a moment of recognition? I can't tell - and then you are back to the empty stare and your head moves back and forth, back and forth again on the pillow.
I walk home - tears streaming down my face - back to the land of the living.