Monday, April 2, 2018

The Beginning of the End

Back in the days when I helped my second wife run an adult foster care home, there was an old woman named Ethel who lived with us. One day, Ethel hobbled out of her bedroom on her cane, tottered into the living room where we and the other folks were gathered, and said in a matter-of-fact, though rather apologetic way, "Well, I guess I'm dying."

And she did so on that very day.

She was 96 years old and one of the last Americans who could say that she had come out to Oregon on a wagon train. I don't remember where she originally came from. Perhaps Iowa? In any case, she ended up in Oregon, on a farm with her husband, who before very long fell into a grain elevator and was killed. They had no children.

What I want to say this morning is that, like Ethel, I guess I'm dying. Probably not today, and probably not tomorrow either--but on my way, nonetheless.

Of course, we are all on our way to dying from the day we are born. We acknowledge this in a vague sort of way. The difference is in an intimate awareness. I understand that the pain residing in my body is permanent, that the deterioration in my system is progressive and relentless, that no medicine or measure will 'make me well again'. I feel the presence of my final breath, now more evident than eventual. I see it standing in line behind how ever many others. There it is, inching patiently forward, ready to be my final worldly acquaintance.

And what can one say other than, well, I guess I'm dying?

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