I gave birth to seven children at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown. On the third floor, I heard the first cries of a child — my own child — seven times over — after the pain and struggle of labor and before he or she was placed on my chest. Eight times in all I knew the magic and wonder of a newborn in my arms.
A little over a year ago, also at Bassett Hospital, I heard my mother breathe her last breath, on the exact same floor but in a different ward.
We gathered around her bed — my father, my sister, my brothers, and I — to say good-bye.
The sound of her breathing in the last days was truly awful – the most terrible sound I have ever heard. But on the morning she died, she was no longer struggling. Her breathing got slower and slower until it finally stopped.
I can’t describe the stillness that settled over the room.
Two indescribable moments — one after a first breath and the other after the final.
In a sermon preached on Christmas Day in 1626 John Donne said, “His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of the same day.”
It is a sobering thought for Advent — that baby, born to die.
Tom Pfizemaier wrote a beautiful advent poem (< — click on the link, and then scroll down) that ends with these lines:
The endless end is ending, God’s kairos now has come.
The Son is here to save us, “it is finished”, just begun…