Excerpt From Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring

“Look a tear,” I say.

“She had a tear when I visited her earlier this week,” Sophie tells me. Sophie is my sister’s youngest daughter. We are in my sister’s room, around her death-bed.  The doctor who is on call this evening has asked the family if they wish to disconnect my sister from her life support.  It is a question of whether she dies in five, six hours or in one. They – her daughters and her partner – chose to remove the life support.

“It probably doesn’t mean anything,” Sophie says,  “Maybe her eyes are watery.”

“I think it does mean something,” I  say.  Surely, my sister felt a deep sorrow for her daughter’s pain.  I remember her telling me that her brother-in-law, Jean shed one single tear the night he died. The tear of separation.

Sentimental. Weepy. Those are good adjectives to describe Diana when she was alive. A warmy comment on a birthday card would make her cry. Now, for the most emotional event of her life she sheds a single tear.

 Morphine numbs you.

I watch as Sophie bends over her mother laying pure-as-first-love kisses.

After she dies and after the nurse has asked us to wait while they prepare the body for a last good-bye we return to the room. There she is before us. Tubeless.    

“She doesn’t look like herself at all. It is easier to say goodbye,” her middle daughter Tania says.

“Does anybody mind if I cut a lock of her hair?” asks Sophie.

Of course not we all say. Her sister Tania and her husband, Scott. Jean-Louis ,her partner, Richard her ex-husband and myself.

 There are papers to sign. Diana has chosen to give her body to science. I leave this to the other family members to deal with and pick up my old CD player which I had brought along a few days ago. Music to soothe her. But even this she refused.

As I leave the hospital room, the kind and gentle nurse says to me, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

I nod. “Thank you,” I say and want to fling myself in her arms.

It is three thirty am and I walk through the empty halls of the hospital holding my CD player. I feel defeated. Lost. A little girl with dreams taken away.


Each morning I receive Taro Gold’s daily wisdom.   http://www.tarogold.com/

Today’s words of wisdom are: a wise person is never afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

 I don’t want to be wise. What I want is to know. To know that there is an afterlife. To know that my sister is in a better place.  That is what I want to know. 

A few months after my sister’s death, a commemorative service is held at the hospital for all patients who died there. I go to it with Jean-Louis and Debbie, my sister Louisa’s daughter.

“Each person has their own unique way of mourning.”  This is spoken by one of the speakers at the commemorative service

Candles are lit. A large screen shows a photo of a beach with two people in a canoe drifting away. A social worker from oncology  gives a moving talk about how difficult it is for him when a patient dies. “This is a time for grieving and the courage it takes,” he says.

 I look at the canoe going away. Its symbol is clear.  

At the end of the simple service, the names of hundreds of people who died in the last six months are projected on the screen as two violinist’s play Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. 

When my sister’s name appears on-screen Debbie calls out, “there she is.” And begins to cry.

Seeing her name on the screen is accepting a bit more the reality of her death. A step away from denial.

Her name is written on the sand of the beach. I think about all the samples of sands she collected throughout her travels  lined up in labeled bottles along the window sill of her bathroom.

Later, I will begin to feel anger. I will feel myself fall apart.  I will wonder if I will ever be able to transfer anger to healing?

Have a listen to this modern version of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Lai Youttitham. An interesting soul.


One thought on “Excerpt From Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring

  1. A very moving excerpt… I especially liked the part about her name written on beach sand – which we know will later wash away. Also how you mention your sister’s travels and the bottles of sand she collected.

    It’s a great metaphor for the transience of life.


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