My friend died yesterday. Just days after celebrating her 96th birthday, Flo passed away in her sleep, exactly as she had hoped death would come when it was her time. When I received the news from her senior care center, I was not really surprised. I had taken her to the doctor a week before because she had not been feeling well. It had become more difficult for her to walk long distances. Even as I had the prescription filled, Flo announced matter-of-factly that medicine wouldn’t keep an old heart from wearing out.
As I hung up the phone, my mind wandered through the many memories I had shared with this faith-filled, straight-shootin’ woman. I thought about how she talked about death and dying, never dwelling on it, but fully anticipating the joy of eternity. My mind jumped to the yellow daffodils I had given her on her birthday, remembering that she said she was going to enjoy them until they finally shriveled up and dropped their brown petals.
Oftentimes people ask me how I deal with the sorrow that comes from interacting with many older adults, especially those who are struggling physically in the last years of their life. They want to know why I am not overwhelmed by sadness.
Yes, of course it is hard when older friends and loved ones pass away. When I see how quickly their apartments are cleaned out and their “things” are discarded, it is a sobering reminder of what’s really important in life. I also know that in God’s amazing design, life is intended to be lived out in community, until one’s last breath. We glorify Him when we walk alongside and encourage one another.
So I can celebrate Flo’s life with great peace because she was confident in the promise of eternity. I will miss her face-to-face friendship, but I will cling to the rich stories of her life.
No doubt the yellow daffodils have withered. Their petals have turned brown and have dropped onto the table. It seems much like Flo’s life. She found joy until the last petal fell. Now she has left her walker and her slow, painful steps behind. Because of Easter, she is dancing in the presence of her Lord.