My husband visited a dying woman this week. She was a long-time member of our church, having belonged to our congregation for many years before we ever came. She loved music and encouraged my husband in his role as Cantor many times over the years. He relates her telling him on more than one occasion that one or more of her friends was complaining about some aspect of worship or music. She would smile at my husband, pat him on the arm, and say, "But don't worry; I set them straight."
A few days ago this saint of God went to meet her Maker. My husband was blessed to be the last visitor she had. He spent about 45 minutes with her in the nursing facility, talking to her and singing hymns ("Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow" and "Abide With Me"), liturgy (the Nunc Dimittis), and psalmody (Psalm 121). He told me she was basically unconscious but at several times during his visit seemed to be struggling to say something and that when it came to the Doxology in the Nunc Dimittis she seemed to start singing, matching pitch a few times. Afterwards, she made a grand effort and briefly opened her eyes. Phillip got in front of her where she could see him and she tried valiantly for about half a minute to say something, whereupon she closed her eyes and then lay back very peacefully. My husband later found out that she died within 15 minutes of his departure.
This lady had struggled with her health and chronic pain for many years and her eyesight was failing (she had to use a magnifying glass with the large-print hymnal). She survived an MSRA infection about 10 years ago. She had lung cancer but she was in church as recently as two weeks ago. Her photo in the most recent church directory shows an impeccably groomed lady with a vibrant, clear-eyed, cheerful expression, tall posture, and elbows bent with chin elegantly balanced on the back of her gently folded hands. You would not know from her photo that she had been through so much.
My husband and I have seen a lot of people die or come close to death in the last few years. This is purely anecdotal, but we have been struck by a pattern in which it seems that those who continue to live to their fullest capacity, doing as much as their bodies allow them to do, are in the end taken from this world with a merciful quickness, whereas those who decide to quit this life early, in spirit at least, waiting for death to come, seem to linger on in their misery for a very long time. Last week my family and I watched a movie called Secondhand Lions. I bet many of you have seen it (we tend to be always behind the times in the movie department). It depicts two men who lived life to the full and who, when they died, died with their "boots on." They didn't stop. They didn't surrender. They went out still embracing all that life has to offer.
So did Marg. Oh, to leave this world as she did! She lived up until the very end, until she was absolutely made to stop. And then she ascended to the Father with His Word ringing in her ears. May each of us be likewise thankful for the days our Creator grants upon this earth and fortunate to depart those days in such a beautiful and blessed way.