Celebrities are dropping like flies today. People's first reaction to Michael Jackson's death was interesting. I saw a lot of them on facebook. From calling it a publicity stunt (I had that first reaction too) to cynical remarks about how strange he was....and he was. And Farrah Fawcett's very unglamorous end....another 'interesting' celebrity. I know they were real people, they both had families and friends who are grieving, but it's not really personal for most people (unless you're a fan). So we are free to gawk at the evening specials on their lives (I did too) and give our opinions. (I am too apparently) To us they were almost caricatures of humanity, an image, a modern day freak show. Whether celebrities are exploiting themselves or are unfairly exploited is up for debate, but it's all kind of a parade of the most immoral and egotistical eccentrics in our society. Yet this day their eternity was made for them. It's all so empty and strange feeling when you ponder it.
Personally we've had to deal with a friend's death this week too. He was a deacon and a good friend at our last church. Randall absolutely loved life, loved his wife, his children and God. He rode a Harley Davidson and yet would snuggle with and talk sweet to his little yorkie with abandon. It made you laugh, but it was real humanity, not plastic or contrived. He was down to earth and lived his life for God and family, not for the public. When his time came he said, "I'm home...I'm home. Praise God, praise God." Then he breathed his last. Hearing it reminded me of when I'd come home from school, as I would come through the door, calling out to my mom, "I'm home! I'm home!" Cool image....hmm.
My own father's death was similar except he couldn't talk at the end. We could tell that he was keenly tuned in to us, tried to respond when he heard my brother or his sister on the phone. He was more himself than he had been for months Having dementia takes you away before your body is ready, but I think his spirit overcame his mind for a while at the end. He knew what was happening up until the last hour or so of his life.
It was August 21st and there was a storm gathering. We sat with my dad, singing hymns, talking to each other remembering old family stories and jokes. We were holding dad's hand, giving him water on a sponge because he was breathing hard and his mouth was dry. Then the summer storm blew in and raged for a while. I opened the window because my dad LOVED a good summer storm. He would go outside and watch them blow in and through whenever he could, even climbing up on the roof sometimes to watch the lightening (yeah, I know). So for a while we listened to his labored breathing while thunder crashed and rain came down in sheets. When it was over we kept vigil for another hour or so, then he opened his eyes, after having them closed for days, too weak to focus on anything I imagine, and his eyes were bright and focussed up in a corner of the room and there was an energy in his eyes, it wasn't just a look, it was a gaze. It made me actually turn and look as if I would see what he saw. But I couldn't (one day I hope to). I don't know what he was seeing, but I have a very real sense that it was another realm of reality. His breathing which was rough, labored and loud started calming and becoming very shallow and then very intermittent. The storm between death and life was blowing through and we knew it would soon finished. He had been focusing mentally on Heaven a few days before he died and now it was as if he saw it. And his spirit never focussed on us again. He was already stepping over and it was a privilege to be there with him while it happened. He took a few deep breaths and then he didn't breath again. And then, in our hearts it began to rain. But it was a very cleansing, sweet rain.
Death is something we don't often see and have to be there for in our society. But it is a very real part of life. I've been wanting to write of my father's death since the evening it happened, 3 years ago, but it never seemed like the right time. I think in the age where you see celebrity icons dying and we are so far removed from it, but still feel it so deeply, it's good to hear of more personal experiences, something unexploited that gives hope and not just sorrow. Something normal and natural and spiritual. After going through that with my father, I am not afraid to die. I never thought I was afraid, but it was a precarious thought, something far off and surreal. Now I know it is just a transition. I've seen it and envy it a little. Can you imagine stepping over with God and reaching your Home that is more familiar and real somehow than the ones we've lived in here on earth? I'm closer to being able to imagine it now.
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:3-4