Can’t You See Them?

On April 12, 1982, I buried Mary. Mary was 93 years old when she died. She was a lively woman with a vibrant faith. She lived at home with her child who was not that young any longer. I remember knocking on the door and being greeted with a jocular hello. She loved to tease.

Mary became ill and spent the next episode of her life in a nursing home, as health care centers were known in those days. Yet when I would visit her, she was joyful and optimistic. Eventually her condition worsened and she became terminally ill. One night, late, I received a call from the head of the nursing staff. Mary likely would not make it through the night. If I was to be with her at the end, I should get there soon.

The next several hours provided me with some truly remarkable life experience. Life experience derived from Mary’s passing from this life to the next.

Mary began to speak out loud. It was like listening to one half of a telephone conversation. My training suggested that she was suffering from hypoxia or some other complicating condition. Finally, after many minutes, if not more than an hour, of this, I asked her, “Mary, who are you talking to?” Her response was, “To them” and she pointed to a corner of the room. There was no one there, so I asked, “Who are they?” “Can’t you see them?” she asked me. “No, Mary, I can’t see them. Who are they?” “They are my family and friends. They’ve come for me.” Enticed, I asked her, “How can you tell who it is? Do they look like you remember them?” “Oh no,” she said, “They look much better.” Then she grew quiet. After a number of minutes, she turned her head to me and said, “I’m going with them now.” She laid back her head and died.

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