Monday, November 13, 2006

The Circle of Life

Once again, I find myself facing the death of a grandparent while new life wiggles inside me.

This will be the third grandparent I have lost during a pregnancy. Fourth, if you count PreacherMan's maternal grandfather.

My closest grandpa died when I was exactly 5 months pregnant with Violet, our fourth child. She was also our first homebirth and the similarities and juxtapositions of birth and death were especially poignent and pertinent to me. I could see how important it was for my grandpa to die at home, in his favorite chair, with his wife of 60 years holding his hand. He died on October 22nd. It was a Sunday. He was a very godly man, and loved Jesus with all his heart. His going Home on Sunday was particularly appropriate.

For many years he was a school janitor and one of the relics of that era was a large wall clock that had to be wound once a week. Every Sunday morning, before breakfast, he would wind his clock. That morning, October 22nd, my aunt left his bedside (which was in the living room due to the hospital bed that had been brought in) and walked a few feet over to wind the clock. As she stepped in front of it, the clock wound down and stopped ticking. After a moment she realized that the clock was not the only thing that had stopped. So had my grandpa's labored breathing. 7:33 AM marked by his beloved clock, he went home on the Lord's day to sing the hymns he loved so much for eternity.

We got the call and came over right away. As I stood by his bedside, I was doing okay until I realized my baby was kicking vigorously and letting us know that LIFE! goes on. A life snuffed out, a new life just beginning.

I used the leftover unused bed pads for my labor, and a few other small things left from my grandfather's soul labor. I realized how appropriate it is to midwife our babies into the world and our souls out of it. In the bosom of our families, surrounded by love, care, familiarity -- home. Not with all the machines and wires and things that go "PING!". Not where family is a visitor.

And so here I am again, four months before a new life in our family line is due to be born. And my maternal grandma, the wife of the grandpa above, has mere days left to live. She is in a nursing home. My aunt lived alone with her and couldn't provide the intensive care she has needed for the last year. And I am 1000 miles away in another state, in another part of the country, with a mom that is due at any minute to bring more life into the world.

Birth and death are separated by the thinnest of membranes. A friend of mine is fond of saying "Life is a sexually transmitted disease with a 100% mortality rate." And yet it goes on. We go on. Babies are born. Life prevails.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Oh hugs! I will pray for you.

My father-in-law has stomach cancer--had his whole stomach removed nearly 4 years ago. He had a recurrance of the cancer this summer, and has gradually deteriorated. I'm not sure he is going to make it to Thanksgiving--he was just admitted to a large hospital today. I'm not sure that was the best move...I think that like your grandpa, it may have been the time to keep him at home to die.

I lost my grandma--who had the role of mother to me--last year on November 23 after a whirl wind battle with pancreatic cancer (moved into a new apartment the weekend of Oct 15--was her normal stubborn self. Hospitalized the first week of November with stomach pain. Less than 3 weeks and she was dead). It is hard now, with another family member going down that same path.

So bottom line...I know what you are dealing with. I will pray for you.