Her words touched me and opened floodgates of memories. Profound recollections from July 5, 1999 and the three days immediately following my daughter Naomi’s dying at age nineteen. The article, Living With Death, by Maggie Jones, describes the social movement that helps families spend more time with the bodies of their deceased loved ones.
The New York Times Magazine article of December 22, 2019 follows the life of a “home death-care guide” as she assists at the death of loved ones. She enables the bereft to keep a body at home for days longer than usual.
Naomi held out to the last. She had adamantly refused to leave San Francisco, having vowed not to go home “to die”. We had been inseparable during her two year struggle with cancer. Then her lungs failed and when I had to carry her on my shoulder up the stairs to her appointment with a healer for what would be the last time, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore and please, we must return home. She agreed reluctantly.
Four days later she died in her bed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As I sat bewildered with my wife in our living room, a friend gently tapped my shoulder and asked if we would like to keep Naomi home for three days. I had a moment of confusion, then said yes, but feared a bad smell. She promised all would be well—and so it was. Our family and close friends prepared her body lovingly, dressed her nicely, anointed and packed dry ice around her. We brushed her hair and created a halo of rose buds around her head. She lay peacefully in her room, amidst flickering candles and fragrant flowers. We were with her day and night. My ex-wife Jean Tobias visited her in the predawn hours and wrote this poem:
Blessed be the angels sing,
With joy they guide you in a ring,
Like a halo ‘round your head,
Gently tuck you into bed.
To mighty realms your spirit flies,
Through puffy clouds and deep blue skies.
So sweet the peace within your heart—
With God’s love your journey start.
Many others came and went as well, saying goodbye and praying for her soul’s peaceful transition. I had time to buy her gravesite and then with close family lay her to rest peacefully.
The grace of a touch on my shoulder and offer to help is forever remembered.
A Heart Traced In Sand
A Heart Traced In Sand