I picked a dandelion puff yesterday. The weed symbolizes randomness or meaninglessness or whatever… something fluffy. Not certain. Not solid. Not weighty.
Today a hospice chaplain held my dying mother in law’s hand and spoke dandelion puffs over her. It was supposed to be beautiful but in reality it was sad and angering.
Here my mother-in-law lay, orange with bilirubin rising in her bloodstream from the cancer that has invaded her liver, half awake, half confused, in pain, loosing control her body and her will to keep her eyes open, and the hope she’s offered is flying away into the wind like a dandelion- unaware, unfeeling, unreal.
The last full paragraph of conversation I had with my Mom Dougal was a couple days ago when she shared that she wasn’t afraid of dying. She knows Jesus will welcome her. But she is worried for her loved ones who are still hoping in dandelion puffs.
As I was taking that walk yesterday, holding that dandelion, watching it fall apart with just the wind from my heavy sigh, I took note of towering Douglas Fir trees, lacey ferns, jewelry-like fungus or growths of some kind on the dead tree trunks, wild berries, and purple wildflowers. All of these, even the dandelion have a body. They’re tangible. Real. Something I can see, touch, hear and smell.
Death is real. I can see it yellowing a mother’s eyes. I can touch where it’s broken through the paper thin skin stretched over the tail bone. I can hear it in the gurgling cough. I can smell it in the loss of bowel and bladder control.
Talking about death as though its the wind carrying you away, light and airy and free like a dandelion might be an attempt to make us feel better. But to the Christian laying in that bed right now, dying of cancer, there’s no need for “feel better” thoughts. The solid rock truth of Christ’s death and resurrection is the place we rest our weary heads.
The Christian’s hope isn’t in flowery thoughts that make us feel better. We believe things that make us sad, angry and often lonely. And we lament. We believe death is a thief. And hell is a horrible place of separation from every good gift of God and God himself, who is good.
We also believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We know our Redeemer lives and, as Job said, we will see him with our eyes! So when we come to die, as Fernando Ortega wrote, give us Jesus.
Death is horrible. I hate it. But Jesus is wonderful. And he swallowed death and sent it to hell. And one day us ragged receivers of his amazing kindness and love will see him face to face.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
John 11:25 CSB