"She was the one who saved me," he said, when we reminded him that he had worked hard at visiting her twice a day, three hours at a time. Today, I saw him adjusting her oxygen hose so it didn't chafe her upper lip, frail and trembling: he finished by pulling up the white thin blanket (standard in most rooms like this) above her thin parchment shoulders, delicate as a dove.
She probably did, I think, since he is an ex-POW from Stalag 17B, two years a guest of Adolf having arrived in style under a nice nylon canopy, billowing fair, obstructing his coach -- the blazing B17 with his friends -- from view. It's tough being a PTSD wife, but she did it, staying, going on hurried trips to the beach when things got "much." Being patient, loving, forgiving much, waiting, cooking, praying with her Rusin book.
She is still here, although one may argue that it is not quite accurate later on to say "there" -- as in "present with the Lord and absent in body." She is still here, although the "here" is tenuous, weak like the famous strand of Damocles.
Last night, I sent them all home: husband, daughter (my wife), granddaughters (whom we are training to be Christian at times like these). They were tired from forty-eight hours of vigil, breathing dry hospital air, hearing soft chimes, waking every half hour from checks on vitals, watching inscrutable monitors.
"Read the Psalms for me," she whispered at two o'clock. So I did. "The Lord is my Shepherd." "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation." "Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet." "What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He has done for me?" "I will lift up the cup of salvation." "This is the Day the Lord has made." "The Lord is near to those who call upon His Name."
"Straighten the blankets for me, Father." I have told Rose many times that she should call me by my Christian name, but she refuses. "You are a priest," she'd say, "and that's more important."
"I want to look nice for when they come," explaining why she wanted the perfectly straight bedclothes perfected, "... oh, look, they're standing there [at the foot of the bed] ..."
I looked, seeing nothing but the clinical world, and immediately concluded that she was the better sighted of us two.
"I need water, good water."
Every five minutes or so, over the night, she sipped from the little straw, two or three tiny swallows, birdlike. This is when water, a cup of cool water, is recognized again as the divine gift it has always been. Water has always been transparent silver, air distilled, the firmament rained from the heaven of doves. Rose, my expiring mother-in-law, knows this.
Better, much much better and cleaner minds than mine have meditated on this moment. They knew better the fineness of the angels, the subtlety of Graceful Will, the dank heaviness and squalor of darkness. A breach is opening, a gap, into the unsheltered Place -- a Place not filled with Space, but infinite, filled with Time.
A breach, and to be honest, my mind is unsettled by the restless spirits oozing from the mystic crack of the mundane: the terror of forever is peeking through. But there is Power and Glory, and Kingdom in the Brightness of the Risen King. His Name is the Way through forever for her -- who saved others in her own lesser way.
He now saves her.
To see this, to know this, is the Triune Gift. Peace of the Trinity I drink in prayer, for I am in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where I want to fear no evil. I need water, good water.
And He, the One Who saves, gives.