Hard Place


It’s well after midnight, and I’m in my parents’ living room. My mother is asleep in her bed; my father sits on the sofa, legs propped on a chair, blanket keeping him warm. He’s waiting for the white pill he just took to take away the pain, and for the red one to keep nausea at bay. In the last few days, he’s been letting go of the routines and activities that have given shape to his life these many years. He doesn’t talk much and doesn’t always follow the conversation. He eats a toast, perhaps an egg or sandwich for lunch, a juice box and a forkful of food for dinner. He pats his dog, sitting on the back porch; he enjoys the flowers and the birds and the sun on his skin. He isn’t busy and has left nothing unfinished. His time is his own, and there isn’t much left of it.

He drifts in and out of sleep as I type. He doesn’t try to stay awake or asleep. He goes where his spirit and body take him. It’s a hard place, this in-between time. Not yet in the next life, but on its threshold; not really in the life he has known, but standing beneath its arch.

It’s a hard place for everyone who loves him – me, my siblings, his sister, and my mother/his wife. He has loved us all so well and for so long, and we have loved him. Our love isn’t tied to this hard place. It comes and goes with us, embracing us and connecting us. Nothing in life has lessened it, and nothing in death will either. How could it? Love is nothing more or less than God’s greatest gift and our greatest blessing. I am so thankful for this – this abiding love that surrounded our past, dwells in this hard present, and will shine into our infinite future.

(Early this morning, my father passed from life into death, at home in the company of his family. With the help of hospice nurses and aides, he passed without pain.)

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