Nearly There

I was now a dialysis patient. I weighed 83 pounds. My skin had turned orange. To look at, I’d become a drooling, weeping skeleton, a naked caricature of what I used to be. I couldn’t answer any questions anymore. I just lay there, tubes going in, tubes going out. What kind of life is this? How long would it last? I lived for moments of touch, when my wife would come and see me. Though it was hard, watching her looking at me that way: I’d once been muscular and a good companion for hiking and joyously walking through the city. I wore these wonderful clothes of pure cotton and silk. Now I was just this balding creature of need – the Need Creature whom no one could look upon. When my wife or sons came to see me, I cried from when they arrived till long after they left. When they came, it was tears of joy and when they left, tears of sadness, as though we’d never see each other again.

I’d had the talk with my kids – the talk about my impending death. It was like they all knew I would die very soon, long before I’d ever get a chance at a transplant. They cried all over me and we prayed, and no matter how much I tried to prepare my family for the worst, there was still that spark inside me, the Spirit of God promising me, “I will never abandon you.” I rode that promise all the way into the swirling dark clouds, my teeth gnashing from pain, the scriptures running through my head. The lightning all around. Out of that despair, I was still telling them, “Don’t worry. Have faith. God will save me.”

I was surrounded by a lot of talk – some of it exciting. I was waiting, for a call from the Transplant Center, a hundred miles away. What was I waiting for? A liver and a bed. When? “It’s coming. We’re waiting.” Waiting for what? “The call. We’re waiting for the call.” But this was not what they – the doctors – were telling my family members. Ricky told me the doc said he’d better stay because I wasn’t expected to live through the night. Well, that was news to me, because even that close to death, I was expecting to live forever. It didn’t matter if my body gave out in the night. I belonged to God. I belonged in His temple. I belonged in His great company. Even if I died, it was a victory for my soul. Those countless mornings with my wife, spent reading the scriptures from the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer. The meditations we learned, the palpability of the Spirit, our deep, familial love, all of these things flew through my head as my defenders against evil and death. It was the clouds of Heaven I was seeing and Him, clothed in the brightest light, at first in unbreakable silence, then, in heavenly outburst of joy unspeakable, it was time to go.

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