Yesterday was one of those days, a day of physical and emotional draining, a day when angels abound.
We had thought ‘J’ was in remission, life was getting back to normal, then the bombshell hit secondaries riddled her body, nothing could be done. We began to talk about death and funerals, not in any morbid way you understand. We wanted this to be good a time not of sad memories and deep regret. The angels arrived and stayed to comfort and bring times of joy and laughter.
When the three month mark came and went there was victory cries, not unrealistic hopes that things would change but thanksgiving for God’s care and mercy. Over the weeks that followed things began to get more difficult, having always been a sociable person she struggled with having to say no to visitors. We still managed a laugh and the angels kept putting in their appearances especially during communion.
Yesterday seeing her at home I could tell by her pleading eyes things were going down hill, once more the angels crowed round. As I anointed her not for death but for peace the angels brought God’s peace into that room. She and I knew there was no turning back her final journey had begun. I dashed back home as the ambulance took her to hospital.
Later in a resuscitation cubicle at A&E I had to fight back my anger, not towards the staff whose compassion and kindness seemed to know no bounds, but at a system which could not find her a bed, somewhere she could be more comfortable. The angels ministered not just to her but to her husband, her daughter and me as we struggled with the delays.
Then there was ‘R’ slightly the worse for wear and wanting prayer, her fag in one hand as I tried to get her to step outside the hospital doors – A&E even on a Thursday night can be a colourful place – into the darkening night. What her story was I never found out but the angels hovered around her too quietening her troubled soul.
Back inside the hospital now in a quiet side room with black skies and twinkling starry views overlooking Glasgow and her family at each side all of them now breathed easier, all be it now the family also knew the end was near. As the angels accompanied her out of this life, some stayed to wrap comfort around them as the grief that had been simmering for months bubbled over.
It is an honour and a privilege to accompany people in their final hours. For a family to welcome you as one of their own and let you share those precious moments. To give them permission to laugh and smile amid the sadness (for many need permission or guilt takes hold). For the individual to look right at you and see the searching disappear from their eyes and peace shine from them.
I always use these words as close as possible to a death.
May the choirs of angels come to greet you may they lead you to paradise.
May the Lord enfold in his mercy may you find eternal life.
In this instance, after the staff had done what they need to do and we went back once more into that room, I was able to read to the family words that ‘J’ herself had chosen for them, an honour indeed.