Today a gift arrived via email. Sandy Booth of Crossings Care Circle , providing home funeral guidance for people in and around Austin, Texas, attended conferences in 2011 and 2012 at which I presented. She sent me some excerpts from Wendell Berry’s 2005 novel, Hanna Coulter. I’m an ok writer, but Berry is a *writer*, as these ruminations on peaceful dying from various parts of the book so beautifully show:
I knew then what he had been doing. For a good while after he got sick, he thought he would just work it off the way he always had, he would get well. And then the truth came to him, and he faced it. After that, he was loitering, putting us off, giving himself a chance to be captured by his death before he could be captured by the doctors and the hospitals and the treatments and the tests and the rest of it. When he consented to go to the doctor he was only consenting for the rest of us to be told what he already knew. He was dying.
‘I have had a good life…I have liked it and am thankful for it. I don’t want to end of as a carcass for a bunch of carrion crows, each one taking his piece, and nobody in charge. I don’t want to be worn all to holes like an old shirt no good for rags.’
He didn’t want to be going someplace all the time for the sake of a hopeless hope. He wanted to die as himself out of his own life. He didn’t want his death to be the end of a technical process.
As I have told it over, the past visible in the present, the dead living still in their absence, this dream of time seems to come to rest in eternity. My mind, I think, has started to become, it is close to being, the room of love, where the absent are present, the dead are alive, time is eternal, and all creatures prosperous. The room of love is love that holds us all, and it is not ours. It goes back before we were born. It goes all the way back. It is Heaven’s. Or it is Heaven, and we are in it only by willingness.