Dear Diane | December 2005
In 2005, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Diane made the most difficult decision of her life. ALS seemed to have left her with no feasible options, and she opted for comfort care until she died. The doctors thought it would take two to three weeks. It turned into 2 months.
When I wrote this letter I didn’t know whether I would see her again before she died. Thankfully, I had an opportunity to visit with her and her family one more time.
I’ll still be writing posts about Diane. Though her formal writings ended in September 2000, she still had six years to live. Nonetheless, because this is closely associated with Christmas, I’m posting it now.
I’ve edited the letter lightly for ease of reading, and to change names of individuals.
December 28, 2005
You’re in my heart and prayers constantly as God’s beloved daughter-child and as my beloved sister going through the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve been listening to my current favorite Christmas album every day. It’s sung by the choir John Rutter directs, with all the carols either written or arranged by him. Hauntingly beautiful.
It all sounds different this year. I can’t stop thinking about how much Jesus’ birth was a valley of the shadow of death for him. He left the most glorious home he’d ever had, surrounded by heavenly beings, and living in the presence of God who loved him dearly.
I try to imagine how it might have been to take the final and first step all at the same time. Leaving heaven and stepping into earthly reality. Letting go of everything he held precious to experience God in a different, unknown way.
Did he have time to get ready? What was that like? I imagine a process of both choosing this new form of life and of not struggling against it as God’s fullness of time approached for him. I wonder how death is unfolding for you.
- I pray you aren’t struggling to hang on.
- I pray your faith is growing even in the midst of things still falling relentlessly away.
- I pray the steady sound of your breath moving through the ventilator will calm your mind and your heart.
- I pray any fear and anxiety will give way to peace in the midst of pain, grief and deep sorrow.
- I pray the Christmas tree in your room will remind you of the tree of life—a small sign of Jesus Christ who is with you and for you.
- I pray the willingness of your beloved family members to bid you farewell will be nurturing and sustaining for you—a small sign that God will not abandon them or you.
- I pray the loyalty, skill and tender care of your faithful nurses will comfort and cheer you on.
- I pray the little dogs and the big human animals egging them on will have you in stitches from time to time.
- I pray the grandchildren will plant sloppy kisses on your cheeks. And the adults, too.
I wonder—do you hear angel choirs singing from time to time? I pray you’ll hear them more and more—singing over and beneath your fears and the emotional pain of saying goodbye to the most wonderful friends and family members God could have given you.
You have been a wondrous gift to us. I’d like to think you were given just to me! But I know you were given to an entire world of people whose lives have touched yours and been touched by you. If you can imagine us as an angel choir—or, at least a faint echo of that—I pray it will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. We’re singing God’s praises for giving us time on this earth with you—God’s beloved daughter child.
I pray you’ll be able to hear these words. I long to be there. But most of all, I need to say these things to you, from me, at this time.
With love from the only oldest sister you’ll ever have,
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 December 2014