My job often leads me to the bedside before or after death. Until that night, I had never been present at the time of death. I’ve always been with family and friends when a loved one had died.That night, I was alone.
The lights and sounds flooded in from the hallway outside her room disrupting the serenity of the darkness. Both noise and light were intrusive and jarring.
The paradox of life and death was highlighted for a moment. The sacredness of the room was interrupted by the mundane necessities needed to run a nursing home. Life and death coexisted in the same space and were seemingly oblivious to each other.
In the midst of this strange balance of light and dark, sound and silence, sacred and mundane she died.
Despite witnessing her last breath, I could not immediately grasp what had happened.
My mind seemed a unable to grasp that the life I was watching ebb away had actually gone. When I checked for signs of life, my eyes, ears, and fingers all told me something was there that was not. I imagined there were faint signs of life. When I interrogated my findings, however, I realized the things that made her alive were no longer present.
Death had arrived without fanfare or terror. Death simply moved in and moved on.
Lisa Goich wrote in 14 Day: A mother, A Daughter, A Two-Week Goodbye, “I wonder if my first breath was as soul-stirring to my mother as her last breath was to me.”
I was not present for her first breath. I was for her last.
It was soul-stirring.
It was sacred.