how death brings us to life

Folding the clothes is a gift today — this blessed act of normal, the sweet scent of detergent. I didn’t even complain when I put them away, typically the part where I dream of having a robot who can do it for me. But today, I have savored the cotton, sorted the pinks, matched the socks with care, nary a robot thought in sight.

We know there’s a time for everything, but it’s easier to accept the time for birth than it is the time for death. My father in law is entering into the last weeks of his appointed time and there is sadness in the knowing. But aren’t we all approaching that time, living one day closer to our last? He may get there first, but we’ll all get there eventually. Everyone has a living story, and we’re watching as his comes to an end. And we begin to count the gifts with every word spoken. When someone says I love you when they’re dying, it seems to mean more than in the  middle of their living.

But why? Perhaps because we know we’ve forgotten to remember the sweetness of those words in the busy, and it’s only here at the end where we pause long enough to realize how heavy they are with grace and blessing. We say each of these last days is a gift, but so are all the ones that came before. We try to pack more meaning in the ends and beginnings of things, but I wonder if the Lord sees them all the same?

Her moment of birth bursts with the same amount of blessings as a Thursday afternoon six years later when she comes home from school and plops her bag on the floor.

Isn’t the day we said I do filled with the same kind of magic as ten years later when we pass the beans and biscuits around our Kmart table? Isn’t her first day of kindergarten equally as monumental as the 22nd day and the 76th day and the last? Because in each of those days, she lives and she moves and she is. Eternity is not for later.

He weaves eternity into our minutes. Everyday, he is creating minute after minute, and he hands us the grace we need for each one as they come. Worry and anxiety show up when we try to rush ahead into the minutes that haven’t been made yet. And we try to manage the future inside a time that doesn’t even exist, and we wonder why it makes our stomach hurt.

When we stepped off the elevator for the first time on the Palliative Care Unit last week, I had the distinct feeling of the presence of God. This is a place where heaven touches earth. It was real, palpable, comforting. But heaven touches earth in my living room, too. In my bedroom and in my front yard and on top of the Empire State Building and on an island in the middle of the sea and in the cardboard houses in Manila and on my front porch. Heaven touches earth every minute, when I touch my husbands hand and look into his eyes, when the girls whisper goodnights and I love you’s and the boy makes a mess with toy airplanes and crayons. Heaven is touching earth right now. But sometimes it takes endings for us to see it.


  1. says

    This is so right–“He weaves eternity into our minutes.”

    Praying for you and your family, that this would be a time of peace and grace for you all.


  2. says

    Wow, that’s just so beautiful and full of truth. “Worry and anxiety show up when we try to rush ahead into the minutes that haven’t been made yet.” — So if I open my eyes and heart I’ll see God’s presence in the here and now, instead of looking ahead with fear and worry. I love that (along with everything else you wrote) and want to live it, thank you!

  3. says

    “And we try to manage the future inside a time that doesn’t even exist…” oh my heavens, the richness. This grabbed me and it brought comfort because I do this and I don’t want to.

    Praying for a gentle exit for your father in law from earth to heaven.

  4. says

    Friend, I had no idea until just moments ago that you were walking through this dark time. Praying that you and the family find rest in the Maker of heaven and hearts. He moves in love. Continually. Faithfully. Tenderly.

  5. says

    This speaks so beautifully to thoughts I have been having the past couple of days as I watch my 91 year old Dad struggle with major health problems. I want to make the moments count, but that spills over into wanting to make the moments I have always taken for granted count too. As Ann has said, “I have this one day, who am I that He should give me two.”
    You and your family have been on my heart Emily. Praying for His peace and presence to permeate the moments. Thank you for this gentle reminder to cherish each moment.

  6. Dave Byers says

    Thanks Em. These words mean a lot to me as we are also waiting out the final weeks, if not days of my grandma’s earthly life. Words seem so powerful and urgent, made more difficult through phone calls from across the world. I told my grandma to keep an eye out for Frank. Heaven needs a Waffle House for when I get there!!!

  7. says

    “He weaves eternity into our minutes” .. there is so much that could be said about this. Thank you for wrapping truth in such meaningful imagery.

  8. says

    This is so beautifully written Emily. It brought tears to my eyes in a good way. We said good-bye to my grandpa last September and those memories are still fresh. But, it was the same for me too…when I walked in to ICU, you could clearly feel the presence of God. It was God and His promise of peace that I was able to hug my grandpa and tell him I love Him one last time here on earth. I’ll be praying for you and the family.

  9. says

    Dear Emily,

    All I can say is, Blown away. The beautifully, and gentle way you weaved your sorrow into words of life, is like a cool breeze on a warm summer afternoon. You speak with words, and I have no doubt, that were whispered into your heart by the Holy Spirit for your comfort, and to bless others.

    Though we have never met, I can tell you have the most incredibly tender heart for Him and others. Bless you.

  10. says

    I wished I had cared as much about the “I love you’s” before they were the lifeline to my Mother’s thoughts. I wish I had let the casual, silly, “What would I do without you?” she said playing with my little boy, melt my heart as when she told him that days before she saw Jesus. We expect them to be there forever. I am praying for your family, Emily. I’ve been where you are.

  11. says

    I love this post. Thank you for those thoughts.

    I also loved what you said on Facebook…about that woman who was talking about seeing the ocean and hearing singing the day before she passed….there is something beautiful about passing from this life to the next when you are a believer. Those types of stories bring me so much joy and hope.

  12. says

    What a beautiful sentiment. Remembering today that every minute counts and is a blessings. I’m so sorry for the pain that comes with knowing someone you love hasn’t long for this world, but oh the hope in knowing you’ll meet again. You wrote it so beautifully.

  13. NCJill says

    Last night as my 12-year old daughter and I walked into the same Palliative Unit, two doors down from your fil, I felt the same presence, Emily. We were able to usher our sweet friend into the presence of the Lord and witness her homegoing first-hand. Her dear, gracious husband even let us see her peaceful “shell” and kiss her still-warm head goodbye. Such an amazing gift we will never forget. Cherish today and love all.

  14. Kelly says

    It is so sad that you are losing someone so important in your lives, but your writing today comes across with such a great sense of peacefulness too. That is the quiet beauty of it. Praying for you and your loved ones.
    kelly in georgia

  15. says

    so sorry that your family is having to say goodbye to your father in law…even if it’s just for a little while.
    it’s so hard to imagine our lives without them…thank GOD for his gift of eternity…you all will be together again.

  16. says

    I have prayed for you and yours all week. This post is achingly beautiful and gives me such truth to cling to this day. May God continue to be near and known and felt in these days.

  17. Gayle says

    I am so glad that I found and read this beautifully written post. The first anniversary of my son’s death was just the other day, and I was thinking of that moment that I held him in my arms as he went to be with Jesus. I felt exactly what you have expressed but didn’t have the words or ability to express it so clearly. Thank you so much!

  18. says

    Beautifully written Emily. It is a bittersweet time during the waiting, knowing that our loved one will finally be free, safe and whole, but also not wanting to let them go. Four years ago my family was where you are now, navigating through the unfamiliar waters of saying good-bye. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, saying good-bye to my sweet mom-but I am so grateful that my Lord has promised me a glorious reunion with her some day! I pray that the love of God enfolds your family at this time.

  19. susan says

    Oh,Emily…i am sorry for your loss, especially in the losing&knowing…as I ran up&down the ICU elevators last week I congratulated&hugged all those en route to birthing or going to see their new granchild,niece,nephew,friend and thanked them for the peace in knowing life goes on. And they prayed for my loss in the losing. I have been so blessed by friends & my nephews,the eldest my rock, reminding me daily to rest to fight for momma&daddy’s wishes. And I fight for momma now that Daddy’s in his Heavenly home,always momma’s angel,protecting her still after a 70yr love affair almost 66yrs married,right after he got back from Iwo&South Pacific,while she still wore Army boots as a WAC in troop logistics in the Pentagon. Right now dementia is my friend&protects her dear heart,tho it crushes her at least once a day. It has been a hard few weeks,but my dearest memories fall throughout my life,anklebiter toolholder,always a teachable moment. Every convo&visit closed with I love’s,to all loved ones,friend or family. -s-

  20. flavina says

    thank you so much for your post i will be praying for your family i just walked this road with my family my step mom of 38 years just reached heaven on july 14, 2011 your post helped

    God ‘Bless

  21. says

    I end is hard for those that are staying behind. I hope your family finds peace, joy, and love as you cherish your last moments with your father in law. Blessings to your family!

  22. cherie says

    Truly moving and inspiring words. I strive to keep those thoughts in my heart daily. This was a beautiful summation of life’s most important fact, that any day I open my eyes and get out of bed and see my loved ones is a gift beyond measure.
    My prayers for your family as they cope with this difficult time.

  23. says

    Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. So sad and beautiful at the same time. Praying for you and your family.

    Lisa A.

  24. says

    Emily, such a beautiful post. The topic is so so true, the living and the dying happening together. I am so glad that I read back over the posts written while I was on my week long computer free vacation. I know that God has extra amounts of grace and mercy for you and your family during this time. I am so glad that he gives us each the measure we need for that day/circumstance. hugs.

  25. says

    I just found you today through Storybleed.

    The timing is a gift from God. I needed to read this today more than you will ever know.

    I’m sorry for your family’s loss – and I hope that your father-in-law is free from any pain and at peace.

  26. says

    “When we stepped off the elevator for the first time on the Palliative Care Unit last week, I had the distinct feeling of the presence of God. This is a place where heaven touches earth.”

    Oh boy. You’ve just ripped me open here. God just said, “stop. think about that. remember.”

    I will be taking this with me on my drive tomorrow.

  27. Jeanne, Florida says

    My husband of 55-1/2 years went to be with the Lord on July 4, 2010. I remember those last hours vividly.
    We stood around the bed … the 4 of us … my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter [10 years] and myself … not
    wanting our beloved to be alone. We stood … kept the vigil until our legs could support us no longer, so
    we sat for a spell … not for long … a few minutes perhaps. It was during that brief interval that he
    quietly slipped away. I think that even in his comatose state, he wanted to spare us the pain of that
    goodbye. Of course, he is greatly missed but “”… He is creating minute after minute and He hands us the
    grace we need for each one as they come.” Odd as it may sound, I never saw myself as a widow, but here
    I am … but God, in His mercy, is showering me with blessings of peace, love and joy. I have God’s
    promise of a wonderful reunion with all of my loved ones that have gone on before. Your post was eloquent
    and thought-provoking. May heaven open up its windows and shower you with blessings you will not
    have room enough to receive.

  28. says

    Oh, how I can remember those ‘wow’ moments! When you know God is real and feel Heaven’s existance. Thank you for the reminder that ‘Heaven touches earth every minute’ and that ‘Heaven is touching earth right now’. May God continue to bless you!

  29. says

    I somehow missed this post last summer. My family is in the midst of a long heartache as we watch my father slowly succumb to ALS. We also lost my husband’s beloved grandparents a few months ago, within weeks of each other. The holiday season this year is so bittersweet: we observe new life in action as we have a baby experiencing his first Christmas in our home, yet at the same time are fully aware of the passing of my father’s final Christmas. My soul needed to read these words today. Not several months ago, when you first posted them, but today. I’m thankful for your words, and for His timing.

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