A day to remember
There are days that are imprinted in your mind with such clarity; the details undimmed, the memory in absolute focus. As the years go by, the actual unfolding of events may not constantly be at the forefront of your mind, but the memories are easily accessible; triggered by a photo, a word, a soft toy, a place, a touch, a smell, or even a random moment.
For us, that day was the 30th December 2004 - a day that changed everything from the way we knew it. A moment in time that bruised our hearts and seemingly knocked our world off its axis.
A day that reminded us we are not in control.
The setting was the Paediatric Oncology Ward at Unitas Hospital in Centurion as we watched and waited…
An ICU room, the final earthly word on 8 years of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice.’
The moment of death.
We were there - a mom, a dad and two young boys - wishing it away, praying for it not to be.
Reluctant goodbyes as the machines hummed and whispered in the background.
Begging, pleading, hoping, believing.
But it still came, as the oncologist predicted.
Just like that.
The machines flatlined.
A candle snuffed out.
The moment of death.
No more breath.
Laura Nicole Johnson.
Born on the 4th October 1996.
Died on the 30th December 2004.
There was nothing we could do.
Helpless, we struggled to breathe.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. -Psalm 116:15
I remember the day Laura died; her moment of death.
She was 8 years old.
I was there.
I was her mom.
I happily remembered her day of birth.
Now I sadly added her day of death to my memories.
It shouldn’t be.
There is no word for parents whose children die before them.
But you don’t need words to describe the moment when breathing stops.
It just is.
One moment she was alive. The next she was not.
The reality is that her life on earth was done.
In a moment.
It was a surreal moment as her body lay in the hushed clinical surrounds, but she was no longer there.
That is what I remember with such clarity.
It is not possible to be unaffected by such a moment.
The tears did not come then.
Shock stepped in.
I could hardly breathe.
But breath still came.
The immediate, unbearable thing about death is that even though a life has ended, life still goes on - all around us - unaware of a world that has been shattered, interrupted, paused.
It almost seems irreverent.
As the sun rises the next day, one might be forgiven for thinking it is mocking us, but rather, it is a reminder of our Creator; the Author of life, of death, of moments, of time.
All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:16
The sun keeps on rising, day after day, month after month, year after year, reminding me of the simple truth that I am not in control; God, my heavenly Father is.
Amid the tears, that brings comfort.
Amid the heartache, that brings joy.
Amid the confusion, that brings peace.
Amid the brokenness, that brings hope.
That means we could get up the next morning after Laura's death, and the next, and carry on living, despite it all, because He is the One who grants us breath and life, for today. For each day. Until He doesn’t.
Moments of death will always stay with you.
They are days to remember.
The memories of a life lived, no matter how short or long, will become blurry over time, but not the actual moment of death.
No more tomorrows on earth.
But for those who are His, there is an eternity of tomorrows - no longer defined by time.
That is a day to look forward to.