Thursday, December 14, 2006

Death Comes So Quickly

Like a thief in the night....

This post is to remember Ellen, pastor's wife, daughter, sister, mother, Nana to two granddaughters. She lived 61 short years, the last four marked by significant health problems that she kept mostly to herself. It seemed she did not want to inconvenience anyone.

Her daughter told me last night, "She wasn't a conventional pastor's wife." I suppose that's true. She had a job and many friends there. She worked hard--only five months from a retirement that she yearned for. Her role in her husband's ministry was to be the quiet energy center of her family, and I believe, the church. She even sat on the middle aisle near the middle of the sanctuary during the sermon. Solid. Just a solid presence.

Today, her family made the excruciating decision to withdraw life support. The second neurological examination showed that the machines were keeping her alive and her mind was already gone. Having experienced this before myself, I knew that the reality on the other side of those machines was cold and lifeless. Desperation sets in after the machines stop whirring--you just want to hold the person after they go. And you can't. So I held her warm hand and felt it undulate with the rise and fall of her finally unlabored respirations. She felt so alive.

Only Saturday Ellen and I talked with another friend about the joy of grandchildren. How fulfilling after the trials and sometime tribulations of parenting, grandchildren can be. "No discipline! All fun!" Ellen said. She was jubilant talking about "her girls".

Ellen was a simple person. Not given to bouts of self-pity or overwrought introspection, she met life with a pragmatic, forthright grace and wry humor.

Her love was demonstrated in single-minded action. She cared for her son and newborn grand-daughter through the haze of her own grief and loss. She cooked. She cleaned. She watched. She prayed. All the while, her heart ached over the loss of her daughter-in-law. But more than that, she felt acutely the pain her children felt at their loss.

"Ellen," her co-worker said today, "More people love you than you know. You've touched so many lives." I was hoping she would wake up so I could tell her the same thing and be sure she heard it. Death reminds you of all the things you want to say, but it's too late.

I wanted a miracle for Ellen. What came instead was a thief. Our world feels empty without her.

1 comment:

Viola said...

So sorry to hear of this loss. My prayers will be with her family and friends. She sounds like quiet a lady!