I stand in the church, head bowed, gripping the pew in front of me. The congregation is praying as instructed by the priest, but my eyes are open, my stare alternating from the popping veins in my hands to the draped casket parked at the foot of the alter.
It is the funeral of my friend's father. It is the first loss they are experiencing as a family; a parade of bewildered eyes, profound, stoic sadness and blank faces as they follow the casket of their beloved. My heart aches for them, and then my heart aches for me. My mind takes a travel back to another time and space. Another loss of profound sadness. Another reluctant goodbye.
I retrace the final days leading up to the impromptu meeting with "the team". The moment when the medical wizards looked at me with collective sympathetic eyes and told me that there was nothing left to be done; that my family and me should start preparing ourselves. I remember smiling, nodding and politely thanking them for all they had done. I remember my body executing the proper social graces as my mind raced with my heart in close contention. I was weightless, unable to connect with my physical self as my thoughts operated erratically - independently.
I fast forward the memory to the final hours of her life. The phone call in the middle of the night ... "your mother is experiencing acute respiratory distress ..." . The panicked drive to the hospital with my family. The horrific sound of laboured breathing greeting us as the elevator doors opened. The look of hopelessness in my mother's eyes as they inserted chest tubes.
It was over. My optimism was brutally invaded by the realization that the end was waiting in the wings -- and the doctor's hand on my shoulder confirmed the worst.
And in the end -- the very end, we formed a ring of love around our angel. She opened her eyes one final time, and blinked when we asked her if she was going. And bathed in pink glowing light, she passed over. We felt it. As she departed, she gave us a final gift - a millisecond of utter bliss and peace - and we knew she was free.
It had been easy to finally let her go. It was like childbirth; pain greater than anything I had ever endured, followed by a flood of emotion, and finally - a lifechanging moment as special as one can be.
Since my mother's passing, at every funeral I attend, I retrace as others pray. But the important lesson I garnered from the experience of ushering my mom to her eternity, was that there are things worse than death; and that death can be the beautiful, bittersweet closure of the circle that is life.