Editorials by Robert Kirwan

The Miracles of Life…Birth and Death

As one grows older you would expect that there would be fewer and fewer new things to experience about life. You know the expression, “Been there, done that!”  So imagine how I felt, when, for the first time in my 55 years on this earth, I found myself standing by in a lonely hospital room last week watching my mother-in-law die. In my entire life I had never actually witnessed a person come to the end of life – actually take her last breath. And yet, there I was, with six of the most important people in “Baba’s World”, spending the last hours of her life on this earth watching her take her last, fragile, slow breaths.
   We’ve all been touched by the death of a loved one. We’ve all gone to funerals and shared tears at the loss of a family member, a relative or a friend. Joshua Liebman once wrote, “Death is not the enemy of life, but its friend. For it is the knowledge that our years are limited which makes them so precious.”
    “Baba”, as everyone knew her, lead a simple life. She lived for her grandchildren, and she adored her single great granddaughter.  She didn’t experience a life of wealth or power. She will not be remembered for any remarkable world shattering invention. She was a lot like the rest of us. She had her close circle of family and friends and that was enough for her. After all, how many of us can say that future generations will read about our accomplishments in history books or watch our biographies on television. And yet, each of us has a close circle of family and friends to whom we are very important and significant. To whom we are considered extremely famous and influential. “Baba” was unique, but in a way, as she lay on that bed, she was just like the rest of us. And she was allowing us to share in one of the true “Miracles of Life” - death itself.
    I watched as she took breath after breath. I knew that each time she breathed in that precious air, it was bringing her closer and closer to death. I often looked over to my daughter-in-law, Angele and my thoughts drifted to the child that she was carrying in her womb - a child that will be born sometime next spring. I was amazed at how the very same air in that room – the very same air that was bringing “Baba” closer and closer to death was bringing that new child in Angele’s womb closer and closer to the other true “Miracle of Life” – birth!
    “Baba” did not want a funeral. So in a way, we were granting her last wish. We were taking part in a “living wake”. We spent 12 hours in that room with “Baba”. We listened to her shallow breathing. We cried a lot. We shared a lot of good memories about Baba and laughed a lot. We talked about her and we spoke to her often. It is said that the sense of “hearing” is one of the last to go, so we are pretty sure she heard us right to the end. About three hours before she spent her last breath, my youngest son called the room from
Guelph . Baba hadn’t moved for a few hours at that time. When we put the phone to her ear so that he could tell her that he loved her, she actually turned her head slightly and moved her mouth. Angele expressed all of our feelings when she gasped, “Oh My God! Look at that!”
   Even after “Baba” took her last breath, we all remained in the room with her for another couple of hours. Talking, crying and celebrating her life. When my son arrived from his five hour car ride, we took a few moments to say some final prayers, say our final farewells, and then we left to continue in our own life’s journey.
    No amount of money could buy what Baba had during those final twelve hours. To leave this world – to experience the final “Miracle of Life” with her closest family around her, made her the “richest person” I have ever known.
    As I leave you this week, I want to share a little poem I came across entitled, “There’s More”.
We only see a little of the ocean.
A few miles distance from the rocky shore:
But oh! Out there beyond – beyond the eye’s horizon
There’s more – there’s more.
We only see a little of God’s loving,
A few rich treasures from his mighty store:
But oh! Out there beyond – beyond our life’s horizon
There’s more – there’s more.
    Thank you, Baba, for showing all of us who are still living and breathing on this earth that there’s more – there’s more.
    Have a good week!


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