She spoke with the sad voice of experience. “Joanie, sometimes death is sweet and sometimes death is hard. Your daddy’s death was sweet.”
She was right. Mary Jim was my stepmother and when she spoke those words, it was April 1989. Funeral home personnel were wheeling Dad’s body out the front door. Dad’s death was sweet. We were all there with him. It was the way he would have wanted it. Over and over he had said, “Death is a part of life. When my time comes, I want you to let me go.” He was right.
Last week we all attended Mary Jim’s funeral. And I thought of her words on the night Dad died. One of Mary Jim’s grandchildren said, “She’s been waiting for this a long time.” And indeed she had. She had been in a nursing home for years, and had not really recognized any of us for a long time. I am sure for Mary Jim, death was sweet.
And of course, as with any death, I was reminded of other losses — and I remembered so well another day in 1988 when we buried our brother. Shocked, dazed zombies – we stood around Mary Jim and Dad’s house, the church and the cemetery. The preacher’s wise and honest prayer began, “Lord we don’t want to be here, but we are here.” Those days were the hardest of my entire life. Mel had chosen to take his own life at the age of 36. And we are all still reeling from that day, I think. I remember thinking we just had to keep breathing. And somehow we did.
So Mary Jim was right. Sometimes death is sweet and sometimes death is hard. I am thankful for her wisdom to comfort me.