Fast Or Slow? came from the same writing class. The instructor told us that he believed that if you could write well about death, you could write well about almost anything.
My father died suddenly. He called out to my mother, “I don’t feel well,” rose from his chair, and was dead before he hit the floor.
My mother’s body lingered for just over a week after a stroke stole her mind.
These are relative terms as far as death goes. Is slow a few days, or a few months? If months, then what is fast? Days? Hours?
Which hurts more? Does one hurt less? Can it? How can a loving God put us in situations that bring these questions?
Both bring their own peculiar baggage. Fast is sudden, leaving no time for preparations, or goodbyes. Slow brings too much time for what-ifs, and leaves not enough time to right wrongs. Slow teases, like a nightclub dancer, tantalizing and tempting, yet just out of reach.
My last memory of my father is a warm embrace after a good visit. He told me he loved me, and issued his trademark warning for my drive home: “Be careful.” Forty-eight hours later, my mother issued the same warning as I returned to help bury him.
I can still picture my mother fighting a respirator tube, shaking her head, pleading in her eyes. She despised the idea of a machine breathing for her. I could never make her understand that without it, she wouldn’t be able to breathe over the pain medication after her surgery.
Two vastly different experiences have the commonality of God’s love.
God took my father quickly, while I wasn’t around. He spared my mother the pain and anguish and draining torture of a long illness. He spared me the guilt of beating the paramedics to the scene, then failing to revive my own father. He gave my mother the strength and wisdom to survive on her own for six more years, independent for the first time in thirty years. This, to a woman who cursed her husband for dying first.
In my mother’s death, He physically manifested Himself to me, to calm my fears and guilt over her eternal destination. As I wept at her bedside in her last moments, begging her forgiveness for not sharing the evangelical message of salvation, I felt His hand on my shoulder, and He whispered, “She’s with Me now. It’s OK.”