by Michelle Montoro
That is sort of a morbid title, I know. But the topic came up in a recent discussion with a friend and the final conclusion which ended the conversation were those words, “There is a certain beauty in death.”
Of course, I am not speaking of death as a result of tragic events, but rather the peaceful passing into the afterlife when one has reached the end of their time on earth.
You see, both of my parents lost their respective battles with cancer many years ago. They were too young to die, but they fought hard and they fought courageously. When the end came, they were just too tired to fight any longer. And in all honesty, when the end came, I was too tired to continue cheering for them from the sidelines. It was time for all of us to let go.
In that letting go, there is something miraculous that happens. I was fortunate enough to be sitting beside both of my parents as they passed out of this world. When I use that word, fortunate, to describe how I feel about those moments, I am often met with bewildered looks. But I am so very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to say my farewells and to bear witness to the beauty that is the end of life.
You may wonder why I choose the word beauty. What on earth could be beautiful in death? Just as life, the Universe, and everything in it has a way of revealing God to us if we pay attention to all the small marvels that surround us at any given moment, death shows us God in the most revealing way.
In my life, I have watched three people die. Two were my parents and one was a friend. The friend was merely 18 years old and an undiagnosed heart condition took his life. The event was tragic and trying to process it as an 18 year old facing the mortality of a peer marked a turning point in my life. Watching him die changed me in indescribable ways, shifting my perspective about life and forcing me to reconsider my purpose here. I live differently because of it.
Years later, after witnessing the last breaths of both of my parents, I remembered that day so many years ago when my friend died…I recollected the details with striking similarity. There comes this moment when the final breaths are so labored that it is painful and uncomfortable to observe. You want to look away, but you so desperately want to watch. It seems so personal and private as if it is not meant for your eyes. Yet you find yourself unintentionally breathing in strained tandem with the dying. Holding your own breath as they are gasping for just one more.
If you have ever watched a person die, you know the sound of that breathing all too well. It is a sound that will haunt you for years to come. It is a sound that will make your heart race even if you hear it on a television show. That physical response will never go away. It literally stays with you forever. Evoking a million emotions all at once. Emotions that you still haven’t quite figured how to process.
And then in that final minute, the moment of reckoning, the instant of departure, it is always the same. There is deep gasp, a vigorous inhale as if the dying is attempting to communicate with the living. Letting us know this is the end, they are ready to go, they have reconciled it all and the knoweldge of life is washing over them in one giant wave of revelation.
The gasp is followed by the longest sigh of relief that declares a peace beyond anything we will ever know in life. It speaks of surrender, calmness, acceptance, fearlessness, conclusion, and perfection. There is never-ending knowledge in that sigh, proclaiming that the end of the story is so much more beautiful than the beginning and the middle. There is a reassurance imparted on the living that everything, literally everything, will be as it should be as it all comes full circle.
As I watched life leave their bodies, all three of them, the color fade from their familiar faces, I could feel transcendence, serenity, and reconciliation fill the room. And all I could think was that it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. For in that brief moment of passing, I saw God.
Michelle is a stay-at-home mother of two boys, an Army wife, a passionate scholar, and a lover of words with a driving desire to help others in the pursuit of becoming the best possible versions of themselves. With a background that includes coaching, mental health counseling, philosophy, English, and law, she strives to reach people by sharing her personal stories of struggles and successes. By always keeping it raw and genuine, she reaches her readers on a level that is real and comforting, always accepting and never judgmental.
You can read more of Michelle’s story and what she shares about her life on her blog Shelbee on the Edge.