The night my first husband died, we (sons, daughters, friends, wife) spent the evening singing and praying at his bedside, hoping he could hear us: that our tears, our songs, our celebration, our mourning would stir the spirit within his rapidly failing body.
Residents and nursing staff joined us or stopped in the hall to listen, tears streaming down their faces. They had come to love Bill. He had made an impact on their lives.
We each took our turn: holding his limp hand, leaning close, asking, “Can you hear me Dad? Can you hear me Bill?”
Every little while he stopped breathing, and we thought he was gone. The nurse counted–one, two, three, four, sometimes up to twenty seconds. We exhaled in unison each time his breathing resumed.
Late into the night, everyone had gone but me. Peter, our oldest son, stayed the longest. His father’s guardian and image, he’d spent most of the night in the uncomfortable straight-backed chair the nurse had brought in. He’d only gone home for a few hours sleep because she assured him it would be a while—maybe another day.
The breathing seemed to keep a more even rhythm towards morning. The cadence of breath and pumping oxygen lulled me into a light sleep.
The days had been long, but I wouldn’t leave. My husband of forty years was at the threshold of eternity, and I was determined to be there when he crossed over it.
Early in the morning, I heard someone call my name. My eyes flew open. When I saw the nurse, I stood and leaned over the bed–close enough to feel the wisp of breath flutter against my face. Then it stopped. I counted one, two, three, four . . . twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three. He was gone. I exhaled the breath I hadn’t known I was holding.
I cried–and then, I marveled.
I had witnessed something amazing. There was no life to raise the still chest or open the sagging lids. There was no spirit in the broken body. It was gone.
“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
At that moment I realized that my husband was not the gray-haired shell that lay on the narrow bed in room 143 of Yuma Life Care Center.
He was a spirit, created in the image of God, who was now and would ever be worshiping around the throne of the God he had served so faithfully.
Helen looked at the clock and noted time-of-death—7:45 A.M.. I noted time-of-transition. At 7:45 A.M., April 10, 2009, Bill Thompson put aside his earthly tabernacle and ascended to the throne of God.
Watching my husband’s passing brought me new awareness: The person I look at in the mirror is not the real me. I am a spirit who lives temporarily in a body.
I am a resident of heaven, not of this earth and someday I, too, will leave this house of flesh behind and, in a moment, be in the presence of my glorious God.
I’ll see you there, Bill.
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Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment. My father’s last hours were much the same. For those with hope in Christ, the loss is for those left behind. I’m enjoying your blog very much!
Thank you, Julie. It really was an amazing experience. I know the Lord let me be there alone to experience. I’m not afraid to die, and I hope when those I leave behind look at my body, they’ll realize that that’s not me!
Breath taking testimony. I appreciate you sharing, as a nursing assistant I’ve been there with families of loved ones passed. I say a prayer, they are never forgotten, only they are now home with God the Father. Amen
I love your writing and you! God bless.
Thank you, Elkie. What a privilege you have to be there with families at that moment. I love you. I’m so thankful for what God has done in your life.
This had tears in my eyes. Such beauty. And, yes, the hope we have after a loved one passes on to Heaven is so sweet. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Tish. It was a beautiful experience.
It’s been two years since my dad died. Long before that I asked Our Lord to give me the opportunity to pray with him as he died. Turns out that’s not the way it happened. For a long time I agonized over that.
Not so much anymore. Prayers throughout life are not forgotten by God at the hour of death.
After reading this I thank God that I was allowed to be with him in life and in death.
Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years. God knows what we’re going to pray before we do, so he knows your heart. You’ve been such a blessing to your mom. I know your dad would appreciate it.
I read with tears in my eyes. Bill had a huge impact on me in the years that we visited back and forth. Somehow we lost contact, but I’ve thought of you often. Thank you for sharing this touching moment of transition !
You’re welcome. It was truly an amazing experience and changed my view of death. I hope you subscribed. That way I’ll visit your inbox periodically and we won’t lose track again.