The Final Chapter: Bittersweet

By: Roshanda Pratt

Within three weeks, I have seen two friends bury their parents.  Death is never easy.  The final chapter in a life, even if it is one well lived, never comes as easy, even if you are “prepared.”  The first home-going service was for the mother, of my friend, who had been battling cancer for a while.  Her service lasted well over an hour, an indication of the type of life Mrs. Green lived.  She was the loving mother of ten, a wife of 50 years, a community servant, and a pastor at her local church.  As each person eulogized her, the theme was the same; Mrs. Green was a caring, loving, and no-nonsense woman who would give you her last if that meant you had the best.  Mrs. Green was a woman worth emulating.  Unfortunately, Ms. Green was diagnosed with cancer.  She outlived many of the doctors’ reports.  And even as she fought this disease she prepared her family for her journey home.  Even in death she was still thinking of others.

My other friend buried her father last week.  Mr. Charles was diagnosed 8 weeks ago with cancer.  According to doctor’s reports, Mr. Charles was given 6 months to live.  My friend uprooted her family, moved back home to spend the final 6 months with her Daddy.  Mr. Charles would subcome to cancer.  He did not make 6 months.  At his home-going service, I learned Mr. Charles was a family man, active in church, kind to strangers and loved by many.

Life is precious.  Life is fragile.  Life is a vapor.

I do not know what it is like to lose a parent.  How do you prepare?  I have asked myself this several times especially over the past few weeks.  I don’t have a profound answer; just a thought that time is a gift.  Time is what I heard my friend, who lost her father so quickly, stated she wanted more of it.  Time can be our most precious gift.

I was a 13 year-old volunteer candy striper at my local hospital in New York.  I would sit with patients, help nurses, and deliver flowers and a few smiles.  I really liked the job.  One day I was helping a patient, a woman hooked up to an oxygen machine.  I felt for that lady, even as a 13 year-old, my heart hurt for her.  The nurse came in and asked me to help change her bed sheets.  As we began the process, her breathing became more labored.  The nurse turned to me, motioned for me to stop and said, as if she were the judge, “She is dying.” I was shocked.  Here I am holding this lady in my arms listening to her fight with her last breathe, eyes wide open looking right into mine. I was stuck.  At 13 years old, I wanted to run away!  I wanted to just deliver flowers and smiles, and now death has ruined that.  The nurse ran out the room to get the doctor.  I continued to hold this lady as she took her last breath.  On the inside I felt like she did not need to be alone in that moment.  She died.  The nurses on the unit called my mom, who comforted me. I left the hospital early that day and my job as a candy striper was short lived.  I never met her family.  I did not know much about her. I often wondered if she had any children or if she was married. I wondered if she was “ready” to die.  Who is ever ready to die?  I wondered if she had regrets.

I decided long ago never to live in regrets with loved ones.  I think the mourning process becomes difficult many times because there are unspoken words, unforgiveness, regrets and time lost.  Even as I think about the fact that my parents will die someday, I can say I have been the best daughter to them (I have repented for the teenage years. Smile.).  The old adage goes, “Give people their flowers while they are still living.”  I talk to my parents often and when I do, I tell them how much I love and appreciate them.  My parents may not have done everything right, but I am thankful for them.  I make sure they know it.  I am discovering parenting does not come with an instructional manual, but through the grace of God and His wisdom you can raise children.

I want when my parents leave this earth for my heart to be at rest.  I will miss them.  I will cry.  However, I will know I gave them the best of me when they were living.

Both of my friends gave their best of themselves while their parents were living.  I saw my friend pack up her home within a week, giving away what she could not take, selling the rest, transferring her children from their school to move two hours back home to be with her father in his last moments.  I have seen my other friend travel back and forth to spend time with her mother at the hospital and through chemo treatments.  They both served their parents well.

As my husband and I sat through their parents’ final celebration of life, I thought how I never really got a chance to meet their parents.  However, I felt like I knew them through their daughters.  Every story, joke and personal testimony described my two friends.  What an indication of a life well lived.  That is legacy.  So, as my friends deal with the difficult part of the holidays without their loved ones, I hope they can find some peace in knowing they served their parents well, and even though mom and dad are gone, they are still part of their lives by how they live it.

This story is dedicated to Sharranda and Denise. Although we hate to see a good book come to an end, however, a good book well written always inspires those who read it. Remember that in the weeks and months ahead. (Matthew 25:23)

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