Bittersweet is what this past weekend was. I can’t think of a better oxymoron to describe it, much less describe life itself.
At about 11:30 PM on Saturday night, while we waited in the hospital lounge, we received the much-anticipated phone call. “Mother and babies are well and healthy, you should be able to see them shortly,” said the doctor on the other end of the call. Stella (not real name), a friend is mine, had given birth to twins, probably the best day of her life. She’d looked forward to this day, and it’s likely the hope and joy of holding her babies in her hands that helped her endure all the feels and not-so-good moments over the past nine months. It was all joy and praise as we were ushered into her room to see her and the beautifully cuddled babies. Upon entry, grandma, whom we’d been waiting with, started the famous hymn, Tukute… tendereza yesu… a song of praise to the Lord for what he had done. This was indeed nothing short of a miracle, and He deserved all the praise.
“The instant of birth is exquisite. Pain and joy are one at this moment. Ever after, the dim recollection is so sweet that we speak to our children with a gratitude they never understand.” — Madeline Tiger Bass
Madeline was right, indeed, pain may be a huge part of childbirth, but it usually ends with joy as with every newborn baby, a little sun rises. This, however, isn’t the case for death. The opposite is said to be true.
While we were celebrating the gift of Stella’s newborns, I was getting ready to travel for the final send-off of another friend’s mum. I had learned of the passing of Jane’s mum the day before the birth of the twins.
As I waited for my colleague to arrive for a meeting we’d scheduled, a minute after she’d told me she was 15 mins out, the next text was, “Jane (not real name) has lost her mum, I’m coming to park and get a boda”. I was shocked by the news, but I am sure she, my colleague, was beyond broken. How was she even going to drive and arrive safely with such news, this was her best friend’s mum. And to think of what Jane herself was going through.
On Sunday, we laid Mama to rest and travelled back to our homes (our lives). Maybe some stayed a little longer to comfort Jane and the family, maybe some couldn’t make it for the send-off, and maybe some didn’t even know her. Even as we drove through the villages and towns on our way back, people were going about their business, some from gardens, some from church, and others, like Stella, celebrating life for one reason or another. This reminded me of how we’re all on different paths in life. In the same moment, life could be blissful for one, and sorrowful for another.
Today, Jane sent me a “Thank You” message. It reminded me of how strong she was that day and how beautifully she spoke about her mother while giving her eulogy.
“It is natural to die as to be born” — Francis Bacon
We do not choose to be born, and we cannot stop death. The difference between life and death is time. The only thing we can determine is how we live while we still got the chance. My hope is that we will live fully and die empty. And while we live, let’s do the best we can, with what we have, to leave a space better than we found it.