Jane died in her sleep, in hospice, on Saturday at 2:10AM.
In the scheme of “knowing” a person, Jane and I did not know each other all that long. She came to church last July while I was on vacation. Congregation members encouraged her to return and she did. Her time at church was sporadic. Her interest in a spiritual life was not sporadic and was the essence of her.
All the time that I knew her, Jane’s body was turning on her as an inoperable and incurable cancer ravaged her body. Somehow, she was determined to beat the odds. At first rejecting chemo she turned to alternative medicines, then found her way back to a combination of western and eastern medicine. This gave her the most comfort and the most hope.
In October or November of last year, she and I started meeting on a regular basis for spiritual direction. We tried meeting at church, but even then her body refused to cooperate, so we met weekly at her home. Some might label this as the beginning of exploring the stages of dying though we did not label it such.
Anger. Sadness. Hope. Bargaining. The process of dying, like living, takes us through ups and downs. Methodical Jane researched every option open to her. The Internet gave her access to a world of experimental medicine and blogs written by people who explored death/dying/living as she did. While dying is not something most of us look forward to, Jane was as prepared as one can be.
Once we got past the pressing questions of whether there is a God or
not, whether there is a heaven and who gets there, we stomped through a whole
world of hope and despair. Hope: a new trial for her particular brand of
cancer. Despair: she would not get to see her grandson grow up. Hope:
she can drive a bit. Despair: she needs oxygen 24-7. Hope: she and Larry
were able to take a trip for their 36th anniversary.
Acceptance. Jane, Larry and I planned her funeral a few days before she died. There was some laughter, some remembering. Tomorrow we carry out her best plans.
Something we talked about - we both believe that the essence of us never leaves, that our words and actions and spirit permeate everything. That somehow, reincarnation - whatever form it takes - keeps us close to those we loved and to the work that was important to us.
So, Jane. Now you know all that we don’t know about heaven. I know God was pleased to welcome you and that the spirits of the Lakota surround you in your new home. At your service tomorrow we read The Lord’s Prayer and Lakota Prayer for the Dead as we celebrate your life. Drop in every once in a while and let us know how it is going.