Sunday, August 5, 2007

Prepare for Landing

The first and sometimes the only thing that I read in the news paper each day is the comic strips.

Of late, the first comic strip that I read each day is Funky Winkerbean, by Tom Batuik. Lisa Moore, one of the main characters is losing her earthly life to a recurrence of breast cancer. Lisa is quite a dynamic spirit. As an unwed teen she gave up an infant for adoption. She is an attorney, a wife, a mother and a friend. Her inital approach to this bout was to battle with chemotherapy. Lisa’s done this before, she knows what is in store. She closes her law practice temporarily and she contemplates her living will. She consents to a request by the son that she had given birth to that her identity as his birth mother be revealed. When it is discovered that the cancer has spread and is untreatable Lisa decides to stop the chemotherapy. “ I want to live the time I have left, not just be alive.” She states. The priorities begin to emerge: family and friends. Day by day, panel by panel She begins her dissent. “ I want to take walks with Les and play with Summer.” “ I want to see the leaves change just one more time.” She says goodbye to friends and meets her son. Her loose ends are being tied up. She emails her friends soliciting prayers of “all denominations”. She is approaching death as a new phase of life and she has chosen to revel in each breath.

Mr. Batuik has been criticized for this storyline. Personally, I think he’s a classic writer. Didn’t we all learn in school the relationship between comedy and tragedy?

I have most recently felt the loss of two women friends to cancer. Each friend was diagnosed approximately one year prior to her final day. In both cases, the circumstances under which we had become friends had changed, and neither was any longer a part of my day to day life. My communication was through occasional visits and emails. The progress of their illnesses and final days were a series of emails, weblogs and telephone trees. Not much different from a daily comic strip. I had to wait to find out what was next, I had to put it in God’s hands, and I marked time with prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Terri died first. Her character in life was noteworthy. She loved the Lord. She was a wife, mother and advocate for children. I will never forget the sight of her walking up the sidewalk to my house for my son’s graduation party. She knew several children who were graduating that year and she was quite ill at the time. I never expected her to make it. She had attended the graduation ceremony in the afternoon . At 8:45 in the evening she was forcefully willing one foot in front of the other in approach to my front door. She was determined to “make the rounds” and fulfill all ritual and obligation. I laughed out loud through my tears at the joyful sight of her. Thank God I got to know her.

Mary Ellen was different, but no less a character. She passed away on thanksgiving day. She loved the Lord. She had been a school teacher and mother to an adopted little girl from China. She touched many lives in many ways. I recall encountering a student of hers who implied that there wouldn’t be much for her to do in Heaven because she was better with the children who would most likely be somewhere else. I believe that to be a compliment. Praise God for the laughter she brought me.

In the more distant past. October of 1999 to be specific, my 83 year old grandmother, Lee , died of lung cancer . In her final days, despite her dementia, she insisted on being groomed and dressed so that she would be ready for the angels. Praise God for allowing me to be her legacy.

I Love them all even in death. They live in my heart and for knowing them I am a better person.

There is someone like Lisa Moore in each of our lives. Her story portrays a reverence for and dignity of life unto the end. Like Lisa, each of my loved ones was blest with the knowledge that their days on Earth were rapidly coming to an end. They were given the grace of a “prepare for landing” announcement.

May we each be blessed with the grace to live the rest of our days prepared for landing.

Peace and all good.

In the presence of the angels O Lord, may we praise your name. Ps 138

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