The Privilege of Dying

A co-worker and I were opening up our office recently and he was in a particularly good mood.  He, according to his own account, expects the worse in every situation.  With all the stress in the office lately we’ve all been a bit “punchy” and being an office filled with counselors we also have a tendency to analyze everything…this doesn’t always help our stress level.

This particular morning as I remarked my co-worker seemed less stressed he told me he had been listening to public radio on his way in and asked me if I did.  Smiling I told him, “Sorry I don’t like to think that much before I’ve got coffee in me.”  He then relayed to me a story he had heard about a man’s grandmother who had told her grandson how much fun, at 93, she was having joining her friends at funerals.

The grandson was a bit appalled.  His quizzed his grandmother about her finding fun at, of all events, a funeral.  Didn’t she realize, she and her friends, that someone had died? Her response, “Don’t you know dying is a privilege?”

This struck my co-worker as an amazing view of death.  His friend is a hospice nurse and tells him often of her desire to help those have a passing that is not morbid and focused on pain.  The story on public radio connected with his friends words and a light bulb went off in his mind.  He then realized how his sister had given him a great gift in her readiness for her passing.  Unlike with other family members my co-worker had been the one to shoulder all the “aftermath burdens” of their deaths.  His sister’s death had been easier on many fronts for him.

This lead to a brief dip into my own experience with death and I relayed to him how that moment arrives when you know within yourself your time is near and how, when your life has been arriving at that moment long before you realized it, you are able to “let go” without regret.  My response was puzzling to him until I explained how I’d never seen life as clearly as viewing it from what I knew was the doorway of eternity.

I told him about looking at my husband and being too weak to speak, had strength to pray and asking God to do what I couldn’t – walk this road with him.  I told him of seeing the look on my father’s face when the doctors explained how I was in the physical condition I was in, what the theory was behind my having Lymphedema and how the truth struck my dad so hard.  I followed that with telling my co-worker how instead of gratitude of seeing my father forced to witness the result of his actions I had felt overwhelming pity and asked God to help Daddy have no regrets now.  Since Jesus saved me from death that time I had eventually ended up losing my left leg altogether.  So of course we covered that too.

My co-worker wanted to know how I did it…and I laughed…one single word explained how I did “it” – God.  I confessed it wasn’t easy and that in the last month I’d been again torn by the desire to “go home” and to be present in this life.  I had no death wish.  I wasn’t seeking death.  But I’d been in that moment more than once in the last few years and sometimes I wanted simply to “go home”.

Perhaps, I told my co-worker that is what the broadcaster’s grandmother had meant.  Maybe that is what his friend was trying to tell him.  When the heart is at peace, dying isn’t a burden or something to be feared but something to welcome; a privilege.

I pray my co-worker finds that peace so when his time arrives he can see death as a privilege.  The same prayer for you is lifted up too.

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