Imagine The Wedding, Not The Funeral
The elevator doors closed, and Tracy stepped toward the rear glass wall to take in the ascending view. Beyond the parking lots, grounds crews clipped hedges and blew off sidewalks around the medical office buildings. Farther out, the blinking lure of fast food restaurants hooked a steady flow of customers. Even from this moving height, the buckets of blossoms in front of the wholesale flower shops popped in brilliant oranges, pinks and reds. On the ninth floor the doors opened, and Tracy turned from all the hustle and color of living to the white quiet of dying.
She knocked softly at the open door of room 906. "Jessica?"
The face slowly turned toward the door and looked at her with hooded eyes and parted lips.
"How's the pain, Jess?" Tracy touched the smooth scalp that used to be covered by the glory of Jessica's auburn mane.
"It's there, but it feels far away right now. Sometimes when the morphine can't keep up, it gets....close."
Tracy smiled into eyes losing the little burn of life. When Jessica had first told her, "Cancer," she had shaken her head in disbelief. "You're strong. You'll make it." The doctors had unleashed their weapons of chemical warfare, and now, six months later, it was hard to tell which had taken a greater toll, disease or poison.
Tracy wondered how anyone could think of death as just "one more turn in the circle of life." Death was an enemy. This room was a war zone where, by God's grace, all who entered had to face down the fear and love their way past it.
The two women caught up on a few days' worth of kids and work and meds and test results since Tracy last visited. After fifteen minutes Jessica's sentences became shorter, and she asked no more questions. Tracy wondered if she should go. Jessica motioned her closer.
"I don't want you to go."
"I'm not going."
"Tracy, I want you to talk to me about heaven. And I want to lie here and listen." She surveyed the whirring, dripping machines. "I'm past the point of denial."
Tracy took Jessica's hand in hers and dropped her head. "Jess, I don't know how or where to begin. I've answered so many questions in the classes I've taught, but.....this is so real." She paused until she could speak again. "Although so is heaven. I feel like we're standing outside the door. Inside the bridegroom is waiting, and music has begun...."
"Yes, I want to imagine the wedding. Not the funeral."