You’re born into this spinning world
to screaming pain, tears of joy, and your own cry.
But have you ever wondered exactly,
what it sounds like when you die?
I am 34-year-old woman.
The thought has only recently crossed my mind.
This is the third grandparent I’ve buried in a year.
The noises can be quite beautiful, you will find.
It’s being tucked up in bed with my grandmother,
though she is in unbearable amounts of pain—
in fact, she was crying in some breaths—
but singing along to hymnals just the same.
And throughout her solo performance,
while laying flat on her aching back,
her voice was as beautiful as ever—
I heard neither falter, nor shudder, nor crack.
Every once in a while, she took a small pause
and would give thanks to Almighty God above.
I was completely enraptured by her enduring belief
in the promise of Christ our Savior’s unfailing love.
It is your cousin who has gone to great lengths
to make sure grandma has received the utmost care.
Devin and Deacon put their medical skills to best of use,
and for our grandmother, they were always there.
It is your husband of 62 years,
laying his head on your beating heart,
and you kissing him as if it’s the last time,
assuredly repeating over again, “You are my sweetheart.”
It is grandma telling me stories,
looking forward to all the people she’ll soon see.
She choked up while talking about her mom and dad,
and I said, “Give aunt Ila a big hug from me.”
It is your brother and cousin Deacon,
making that drive to come see her once more,
wrapping her up in their big, gigantic arms,
letting her know she’s loved down to the core.
It is that dreaded phone call you knew was coming
and your mother on the other end
in all her grace and class and quivery voice,
saying, “She passed around 8 a.m.”
It is a house full of friends and family
and her studio cassettes Uncle Dallas found.
It’s us playing her music on quite the contraption,
and us chattering, while she’s singing in the background.
It is one of us breaking down again,
but someone coming over to comfort you.
It’s a wise crack to break up the thick sense-of-loss
that only a Caldwell can do.
But, would you like to know what I have learned
by watching people around me slowly die?
The measure of person’s entire life can be summed up
by all the whos and hows we say goodbye.
Just like an army of people are perched and waiting
for new, sweet life to make its start.
So goes an entire force of people
to help usher and comfort you as you depart.
For in the end, life isn’t measured by victories,
or even by all of our mistakes.
For me, the sum of a life is simply captured
in the sound that dying makes.