A year ago I drew this labyrinth in the sand on my favourite beach.
Dragging my fingers in the barely-warm April sand felt wonderful after having spent three days in a nursing home. My mother was struggling so overwhelmingly. The only thing I really knew how to do was play the piano for her and sing the hymns she liked. (During those moments I was very grateful to her for forcing me to take piano lessons so many years before.) She was a very good mom.
At the moment I drew this little spiral I did not know that a few hours later I would watch my mother leave her earthly body. That morning I just drew something very familiar, a small Cretan labyrinth. Into the centre and out, one path. Death is sort of like that. Just one way in and one way out. I will spare you the selfie I took of me laying beside her in the bed that spring evening as she struggled with her last few breaths. My need to crawl up beside her was more to comfort myself than for her benefit. I kept whispering to her “Don’t be afraid mom”. Whether or not she heard, I do not know. People say that hearing is the last to go. I felt privileged to hold my cell phone up to her ear as I called her grandchildren near and far and had them say their goodbyes. From many miles away her daughter-in-law sang a hymn to her over the phone and her son recited her scripture. Her son-in-law prayed on the phone as she took her last breath while her other daughter-in-law held her hand.
It was a good death. And a good funeral.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about both.
When my husband was a clergyperson I loved it when he would take some sand or earth and make a the symbol of the cross on top of the coffin as it was lowered into the grave. I reflect that putting my hand in the sand that morning was a sort of ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ kind of moment for me.
These moments are necessary. This last year of grief has been good.
from The Good Funeral: Death, Grief and the community of Care by T.Long & T.Lynch.