by Patricia Roop Hollinger
Quaker Meeting was my destination on this crisp, windy fall morning. Trees were swaying; some as though their boughs would break, while others seemingly allowed the wind to give them the ride of their lives. Leaves were swirling in spirals while others floated lazily to the ground below.
“Why that fits the description of how people choose to die,” I thought.
I have outlived many of my family members and peers; thus been a witness to various and sundry methods that death has released them.
My grandmother had a brief illness during her last year. She was recuperating with my mother and took her last breath while asleep during the night. No lingering for her. She had swayed through a myriad of fall seasons, the death of two husbands, and sunnier days, raising four children, in a lifetime of 88 years. She knew when it was time to take her last breath.
Then there are the deniers. Death happens to other people. I witnessed such a death with my second husband. We couldn’t talk about death in spite of the fact that his body was wasting away due to cancer, multiple heart problems, diabetes and beginnings of dementia.
“I am going to live until I am 90,” he would tell me.
The reality only hit him when his M.D. pulled up his chair, got in his face and said: “You need to hear this, for you are dying.”
Was this heartless? No. My husband needed to be shaken out of his state of denial, for death would have the last word despite his protestations.
The leaves symbolized the deniers of death as they hung onto the branches tightly in spite of winds that were battering them to and fro. “No, no, it’s not time yet” they were saying. “We want another day, another week, and another month.”
As a hospice volunteer witnessing the death of the physical/bodily existence is just a rebirth into another form of living. I do not proclaim to have the answer as to why one person dies seemingly peacefully while others struggle with agonizing breathing for what seems like an eternity for the witnesses.
May I leave this life floating and swaying to the rhythms of Andre Segovia’s guitar or Deuter Buddha Nature like the leaves that know when it is time to stop hanging on and just drift into what lies ahead.
Patricia Roop Hollinger: cat lover, musician, gardener, voracious reader, now exploring writing skills in retirement. She was employed at Brook Lane Health Services as Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor/Chaplain for 23 years prior to retirement in 2010. Celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary on October 30, 2014 to a former high school heart-throb.