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A Time To Die

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted

That scripture became a song, one of my favorites. Recorded by the Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn” became quite popular. Those verses and the ones following in Ecclesiastes are proof that God did not promise us life would always be rosy. Indeed, there will be difficult times.

Rick and I arrived at our home in Florida on January 3rd this year. The next day, I picked up the phone and called Audrey, my eighty-eight-year-old sister who has Parkinson’s. There were seven of us children. She’s the oldest girl and I am the youngest. Still, we have been close siblings since forever, and now, only she and I remain of all of Mom’s kids.

Audrey told me her husband, Mike, wasn’t feeling well, saying it was the same cold he gets every year about this time. My advice – you need to be tested for possible Covid. The next day, he tested positive, but she was negative. Both were doing okay. Since they only live a couple of miles from us, Rick and I visited them.

In the beginning, all was fine. Mike slept in another room since he was Covid positive and she was negative, but Audrey sometimes needs help through the night. I offered to stay, but with both of them being independent and proud, she declined at first. Later that evening, she called and said maybe she’d better take me up on my offer.

I packed a bag and thanked God we had already had this dreaded virus. Soon, Audrey came down with Covid, too. I’m not a nurse, but I had talked with their doctor’s office and they instructed me in what to do. I found myself charting temps, blood pressures, heart rates, and oxygen levels.

After 60 years of marriage, the two of them were very protective of each other. That next morning, Mike went into her room, took her hand, and asked her how she was doing. Then he sat down and they talked. I gave them their privacy and had visions of their 50th wedding anniversary when they danced together with eyes for only each other. Even though she wasn’t as agile as in her younger days, you could tell they both saw an earlier version of each other.

The next morning, after a busy night with Audrey, I joined an ailing Mike at the dining room table as he completed a crossword puzzle, a usual practice of his. He didn’t look good. Even though he was wearing his oxygen machine, the pulse oximeter on his finger indicated a low oxygen reading, and his heart raced.

“Maybe I should go to the hospital,” he said.

“I think that’s not a bad idea,” I agreed. Rick arrived soon and Mike prepared to leave.

My sister didn’t say it, but I saw in her eyes that she knew how serious this could be. She cupped his face in her hands, “You do as they tell you,” she told him. He pulled her close and held her. They kissed and told each other goodbye, fearing they might not see one another again.

Audrey had a pretty good day, but that night when I checked on her, her temperature raged and her oxygen had fallen into the 80’s. I woke her, placed a cool rag on her forehead, gave her some Tylenol, and called 9-1-1. As the paramedics wheeled her out of the condo, our eyes were fixed on each other. I told her I loved her and burned the image of Audrey smiling at me while on the stretcher into my memory, also fearing I might not see her again.

When they admitted her to the hospital, they actually placed her in Mike’s room and all seemed to be only a matter of being treated and getting well. Of course, the hospital accepted no visitors, and I only got to talk to them if they answered their cell phones.

The hospital communicated with their oldest sons and soon, they notified us that both required more intensive treatment and oxygen, but that they wouldn’t be placed on a ventilator because of the DNR orders. The treatment required them to be in separate rooms. One day we thought all was okay, the next we were told to expect the worst. Ten days later, before the hospital released a weakened and weary Audrey to a rehab center, they took her to Mike’s room to once again say goodbye. It was the last time she saw him.

Although, he continued to deteriorate, everyday he asked about Audrey. She apparently wasn’t able to use her phone because for the longest time, we didn’t hear from her. Finally, the two of them were able to converse by phone. Then, the family was called in to say goodbye to Mike, but he fought hard to stay here for Audrey.

Several days later, when he could no longer fight, he requested for his sons to take him home. He had spent over a month in a windowless room, without visitors, struggling to breathe. He deserved to die in a familiar room with a window and sunlight. His sons sat by his side and they conversed some. Each told the other of their love and they talked about old times. Once he got to talk to Audrey briefly over the phone, but she had no idea how bad he was. The boys prayed and read scripture over him as he slipped from this earth into the arms of God.

This morning, I went with the boys to tell their mother that the love of her life had left for paradise. We had requested the rehab center allow us to give her this news in person, and miraculously, they arranged it. We had prayed for God to give her strength, prepare her, and encourage her for her future. She took the news just as we had asked, crying only a couple of times. She helped us with funeral arrangements and other decisions.

“I want to be at the funeral,” she said as her lower lip quivered. Barely able to sit in her wheelchair, she looked from one of us to the other. “Life is never going to be the same,” she declared.

Her sons made the decision at that point to bring her home and care for her there. The boys live in Illinois, but knew that she couldn’t make that trip in her condition and the cold. They plan to make changes gradually. Tomorrow, I will be there when she enters her condo to begin the first chapter of the rest of her life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.” Psalm 150:6

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