Monday, May 14, 2012

The Final Paper

"All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."
Ecclesiastes 3:20 (KJV)

There's nothing in the world like walking into the Vital Records department of the local health department and being handed the awful, dreaded document.

Certificate of Death.
So final.
So cold.
How could it be her name that was printed on Line 1 where it reads,
"Decedent's Legal Name"?

The woman helping me had been extremely rude on the phone earlier, and I had reached the point of tears.
It doesn't take much....for me to arrive at that point.
How can people be so cold?  And unfeeling?
How can the world go on?

How will I go on?
Living...existing...day to day?

How can people speak in an unkind tone?
In the midst of such pain and anguish of heart?

Shouldn't people who deal with death on a daily basis be trained to empathize, sympathize, and care?

I know I have MUCH to be thankful for...and I am.
With all my heart.
I have found moments of true praise and deep worship during all of this...this darkness.
I have made conscious choices to do as the song says,
"I Will Praise You In This Storm".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHdcyue0bSw

I love the words to that song.
This isn't the first season of grief that its powerfully written words have sustained me.

Praising God...right in the midst of the pain....is a wonderful path to peace...at least, for the moment.

When I arrived later...at the Vital Records Department, wouldn't you know that it was her....the one who was rude....who ended up helping me...again?

I walked, dejectedly, subdued, towards her desk, and took the seat across from her....expecting more of the same.  
More unkindness.  
More rudeness.  
More lack of compassion.
She seemed to know who I was before she even asked.
The first words out of her mouth surprised me....caught me off-guard.

"I'm sorry if I seemed rude to you earlier on the phone."

"You did", I answered.
My tone was flat....with no feeling.  
Maybe I shouldn't have, but, truly, it was about all I could muster to say...at the moment.

"I'm sorry.  It is just that we have to get all of this information...."

She went on and on trying to justify her rude tone and attitude.
I tuned out most of what she was trying to say.
It seemed so trivial...so petty...so unimportant....compared to the pain of my reason for being there.
When she finally finished explaining her behavior, she apologized again.
"Thank you", I said quietly, "It's okay."
Tears were starting to reach the point of spilling over....again.

She handed me a clipboard with an application that I needed to fill out.

My mind went back to all of the other paperwork and documents I have helped Mom and Dad fill out and file through the years.....all of the medical records, medical consent forms, applications to rent apartments, Social Security, disability, Medicaid papers, on and on the memories flooded my mind.
How many have I filled out through the years??
Each time, at the end, I would hand it to them....to verify and sign...before I turned the papers in.

This time it was just me.
No one to hand the clipboard to.
No one to turn and ask a question.
No one to care if I got it right.

I handed her my debit card....to pay for the copies of the death certificate.
She continued typing and printing and processing my transaction.
At last, she handed them to me...fresh off the printer.

There it was, in my trembling hands, the paper....the final one....mournfully closing the final chapter of my precious Mom's life.
Such finality, in black and white.
Mom's name.
It was official.
The doctor had signed off on it, with all three causes of my precious Mother's death, date and time of her death, and all of the other pertinent information.

I stood to leave.
"Again, I'm sorry", she seemed very sincere.
Obviously, she felt really bad.

"It's okay", I assured her, as I walked away.
Just as the torrent of tears started.

I walked around the corner, and I lost it...completely....on my way out the door.

I stood, stunned, reading the causes of my dear Mother's death.
It hit me how severely she really suffered.
Some of this was not new.
Some of it she had dealt with and suffered with....for years.
I had watched it, day after day, but to see the actual medical terms for it, was about more than I could take.

I got in the car, out of the sight of curious onlookers and scornful looks, and the restraints were loosed
I cried for all I was worth.
The pent-up dam of my emotions broke free.

"Oh, dear God, this is SO hard." 

I drove in tears across town to where Kevin and Zach waited for me ....copies of the death certificate riding alongside me in the front seat....where she sat beside me so many times....so many years....so many trips.
Where she should still be....in my way of thinking.

But, who am I?
What do I know?

God's thoughts are so far above mine.
I only see...well, what I can see.
I only feel....the overwhelming pain and grief.

Ultimately, I know He did what was absolutely best....for Mom.

The other day in the hospital, we had laughed...she and I...when I said to her, 
"We've traveled a lot of miles together, haven't we, Mom?"

"Oh, my!  Haven't we, though?" she replied.

How to travel on....without her?

I pulled in to the parking lot, parked the car, picked up the cold, lifeless certificate off the seat beside me, and I put one foot in front of the other....step by step, until I reached the four arms that comfort me most in these long, dark, empty days.

Two little ones that still have to reach up to me,
and two strong ones....attached to shoulders broader and taller than mine.

Pillars of strength they are.
Always there.
So quick to open when I need a hug.
Still alive.
Still needing me to share life with them....in these moments....even though I feel a part of me is now dead.

I reached them and felt a measure of peace.
I took comfort...in their warmth and safety and embrace.

I stopped crying....for the moment.

It's what she would want me to do.


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