There are a number of bracelets on her emaciated left wrist; some with crystal beads strung on elastic, another with tiny crosses and charms. The purplish-pink one with the letters DNR is the one I notice first.
We are visiting my husband Jeff’s Aunt Sarah in the nursing home where she now resides, moving there with an injury from a fall at the age of 93.
Due to a number of reasons, we have been unable to keep up an ongoing relationship with her; however, we are here now. Visiting her and Jeff’s mother Gloria, who happens to be at the same facility for rehabilitation.
Hesitantly we move into Sarah’s room. She is bedridden, receives her nutrition through a tube feeding and appears to be a scant 80 pounds, maybe less. She wears a wig to cover her hairless scalp and when she sees us, her tired eyes widen and she calls us by name.
The years between visits and the distance created fade away as she reaches for our hands and states, “This is the best day that I have had in this place so far. What a surprise and delight!”
Mental faculties still intact, she recalls details about us, wants an update on our children and tells us the story of her transition to this place.
Despite her reluctance over the years to seek help or move from her house, she seems resided to being here. She talks about the staff taking good care of her and what a blessing it is to be in the same place as her sister-in-law, Gloria.
She is animated as she tells her story, is very positive despite her circumstances and declares, “I am ready to die, and I just don’t know when God is going to take me!”
I see her staring at Jeff and watch her eyes tear up when she says, “You look so much like your father. I really miss that brother of mine; he’s been gone for so many years now.”
I reach for a Kleenex to give to her and say, “Won’t that be a wonderful reunion with your entire family when it is your turn?” She dabs at her eyes and says, “Oh yes, it will!”
When it is time to leave, we cradle her brittle boned body in our arms giving her hugs and tell her that we love her. She thanks us again for coming and states that we are in her prayers every night and that she loves us too.
Death comes like a thief in the night whether we are ready or not. Like Sarah, we may have to endure pain and see ourselves become skin and bone before it arrives. It may come so unexpectedly that we don’t see it at all and have no time to prepare.
But either way, it comes. I believe making peace with that changes the way we live our lives and Sarah is a great example for us. She is positive, faithful, and chooses to be engaged with life up to the end.
Have you come to terms with death? Do you have people in your life who are showing you the way? I’d love to hear your stories!