A death can occur suddenly or be drawn out. Since my own diagnosis, a number of people I know have died before I have. The unexpected deaths can shake others to the core. If the person has not prepared for the end of life details then it also bears hardship on the remaining loved ones.
What about the long goodbye? Is it a blessing or a curse? In reading the book Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn, Jill says they have been given the gift of a long goodbye. She says that they are thankful for every moment with her and yet it’s painful watching her suffer. Loved ones have not seen me suffer too much, until maybe recently. That hard work is coming.
We have had the blessing of beginning to say the words we need to say, of making memories, of taking photographs, and of learning lessons that change lives.
The long goodbye also allows for the not so pleasant parts of this hard adventure. There are moments when I cannot find the graciousness I need, when I cannot explain to formerly close friends why they are not always in the inner circle, or when I am trying hard to forgive. For those on the path with me, they need to sort through the pain of losing me while I still linger, the confusion of not always having me available like I used to be, and dealing with the new Suzanne who is trying to etch out better boundaries. They also need to deal with their own denial about the surreal nature of what is to come.
With all these things come a certain redemption, healing, and valuable life lessons yet to learn. I suppose there are easier ways to come to this place in life. I try still to see God in all things, Divine fingerprints scattered over the pages of my life, the lives of those around me. and the beauty of Creation. I must learn to see God in the suffering too during these days of the long goodbye. The gifts will be oddly wrapped for all of us but we must remain open to the beauty of these too. I keep my eyes on the prize of Home and know that I will rejoice in that hello.
Sudden deaths and long goodbyes each are hard. What has been your experience?
What can suffering teach us?
The long goodbye is an odd gift, Creator. Teach us all to use the time well until I rejoice in seeing you face-to-face Amen.