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Three score and ten or more

Monday, November 19, 2007

Funeral (again)

I have already written about funerals a few times. One of the obvious things about becoming a coot (or even just a geezer) is that folks around you are going to die. (ultimately so are you). This means that, unless you are completely friendless and have no living relatives, you are going to have occasion (more and more frequently) to go to funerals. Some times this is a blessing, sometimes almost a curse. I went to a "viewing" this evening (funeral tomorrow morning) for one of the most remarkable women-- - no, one of the most remarkable people I have ever known. I doubt that you will find her name on any "who's who" list or any other list (except this one, I guess) of remarkable people but I have not known anyone who has personally made so deep an impression on so many people. For much of her life she was just like most other people of faith. She taught Sunday school, worked with youth, converted her husband, and generally was a really nice person, the type we all would like to be. It was not just the living of her life that made her remarkable, it was the leaving of it.

Some years ago, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. ( I don't think she was ever a smoker. Certainly she was not during the thirty or forty years that I knew her). She went through most of the trauma suffered by most cancer patients. She had radiology treatments that beat her down. She went through chemotherapy, lost her hair, (spoke of baldness with a humor that belied any suffering) and finally, about six or seven years ago, her doctor told her that she had only three months to live. She looked him in the eye and told him "You are not God. You have no right to try to determine how long I will live. I will work this out with Him, if you don't mind."

In the ensuing period she has been diagnosed with uterine cancer, a lymphoma and a variety of other carcinogenic situations. In this entire time, riding in her wheelchair with her bottle of oxygen attached she has attended church services, preached a sermon or two, born witness many times of her faith in, and relationship to Jesus Christ. She has visited the sick, held the hands of those who have been ill for a variety of reasons. Her hair has fallen out again, and grown in again as she has suffered the indignity of most of the known cancer treatments. In all this time, I don't know anyone who has done more good for more people, those with, and without faith. I know no one who has met her and talked to her for any length of time without feeling that they were made a better person from the meeting. I know that I am a better, more tolerant and more patient person as a result of our relationship.

In total peace she chose her own burial clothing, helped with the funerals of friends, and radiated the strength and vision and tolerance of the foibles of others that should be the example of true religion. The book of James in the first chapter, the twenty seventh verse says the "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted before the world." The concept demonstrated in this verse was demonstrated by my dear friend. I hope, that when I leave this existence there will be one person who will feel about me the way I feel for this dear sister. If so, my existence will have been worth living.


At 11:13 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

That was a good death - and a good life.

I've been racking my brains to think of an effective painkiller for you. The strongest are the opiates but they actually don't kill pain as much as they make you high and detach you from it emotionally and mentally.

Have you considered a corticosteroid injection directly into the problem site? If not, ask the doc about it. It works.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous kathleen said...

What a wonderful tribute from a wonderful friend. Really beautiful.

I hope that this pain is relieved soon. I think Patrick's idea is worth a try. I hope that it works.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Norma said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend, and a loss for all who benefitted from her tender care and touch.

I've been feeling that cootness too. Today I sent 4 sympathy cards and 4 "thinking of you" cards.

Hope you feel better soon.


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