Daniel Greenberg, who blogs at Sultan Knish, is going through the slow, but inevitable loss of a loved one. He's written about it, very personally and very movingly.
Our lives are defined by numbers. Our deaths are defined by them too.
Somewhere out of sight, in the world or in our bodies, a clock ticks insistently away. Most of the time we are fortunate enough to be deaf to the relentless clockwork march of time.
Until we begin to hear. And are unable to stop.
There are many clocks in the hospital room where she lies dying beneath a plastic blanket inflated and deflated by one of a dozen machines in the room.
There is an old fashioned clock ticking inaudibly on the wall, there are digital clocks and timers embedded in everything. And there is the insistent count of heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen. The numbers keep going down.
The beeping is constant. One alarm, for the heart rate or the oxygen or the IV follows another. The alarms are a count. The numbers they measure are ultimately the only numbers that matter. They are the numbers of life.
I had often heard the term deathwatch, but standing on the plastic pine floor while the nurses come and go, I understand it. I am waiting for a death that I have been told is inevitable. I am waiting and dreading it all at once.
The Rabbi has come and gone. He has said his prayers and words of comfort. And I have said them with him. All the prayers in the end form one greater prayer. A fervent hope that our lives are defined by more than these numbers.
There's more at the link. Very highly recommended reading.
I've sat the deathwatch with people - friends, parishioners, strangers - many times. It's never the same . . . and yet, it's always the same. Sooner or later, the change comes. We all must leave this life behind, and go on to whatever lies on the other side of death. What that may be is a mystery we can only solve in one way.
I'll be praying with and for Mr. Greenberg, and for his dying relative, and for his family. I don't share his faith, but we share the same God, and I pray that his loved one, and he, and I, and my loved ones, may all receive the same mercy in the end. I hope those of you who are similarly inclined will join us in our prayers.