A Witness To Death

My mother told me that when she was a child, she would wake up in the middle of the night to find her mother slaving over the woodstove.  Grandma was a midwife.  Mom said Grandma’s dreams would tell her when a baby was coming, and she would get up and cook for her family, knowing she would be away.

Grandma’s gift passed on to me, with a slight variation.

I first learned about it the night my four cousins perished in a fire.  I awoke in the middle of the night with an awful chill.  When my mother told me the news, I realized that I’d already known about their passing.

Walking home from school one day, at the age of eleven, something unseen stopped me in my tracks.  The image of my paternal Grandmother filled my mind along with the sensation of her love, and a farewell.  I arrived home to find my family gathered around.  “I know,” I said, before anyone could speak.  “She told me.”

Lying beside my ailing sister one night, I had a vision of a spirit.  He told me to listen for the howling of the wolves, and that my sister would pass through the fire on her way to the other side.  I was with her the night an unexpected storm came in.  The wind it brought sounded like a pack of wolves howling outside the window.  I had been holding her hand, but the heat from her body was so intense, I had to let go.  The nurse said her temperature was higher than her thermometer could measure.  She passed away ten minutes later.

Do I believe in life after death?  Yes.  Does that lessen the grief of losing a loved one?  No.

Grief is the natural response to loss.  Life may go on, but the relationship has been permanently altered, and that is loss.

When Dee found out she was dying, she made me promise I would be there to hold her hand.  Death, like birth, I told her, is not something we have control over, but I would do my best.  The call came at 6:30 one morning.

“Dee says it’s time,”  her mother told me.  “Can you come?”

I had children to get off to school, and so it was two hours before I arrived at Dee’s bedside.  She was already well on her way.   With one hand I grasped hers, then placed my other over her heart as I leaned in to whisper: “I’m here.”

Dee’s eyes opened and she took one last gasping breath and died.  Her spirit, like a breeze, flowed through the house, flickering all the candles her mother and sister had lit to mark the occasion.  She was free!

I witnessed the miracle, and then I grieved.

 

 

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