Her labored breathing finally stopped.
The doctor whispered, "It's finished."
He rose and shut the morphine off.
We looked at each other with uncertain eyes.
The nurse started gathering equipment up.
The chaplain knew what to do --
He'd been here many times before
And almost certainly would be again --
"Let us pray the words of the Psalmist:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..."
The undertaker was silent and gentle,
With large hands accustomed to the dead.
He murmured sincere condolences
As he wheeled her shell out the door
And promised to be in touch soon.
Their assistance was for us, not her.
At long last, she was finally beyond
The need for human aid. Like a prisoner
Seeing the outside after decades, she left
These walls for the fearsome blessing of Release.
As we finished singing "Joy to the World," my wife pulled over so we could gawk at the strands of Christmas lights wrapped around literally every inch of every tree in this poor soul's yard.
"Their electric bill must be ghastly," I muttered.
"How can a baby do that?" My four-year-old asked from the back seat.
"It was probably a mom or a dad who put these lights up, son," I replied.
"No," he said. "I mean how can a baby rule the world?"
"That's a really good question," I said.
We don't watch TV in our house, but if we did, it would be an even better question. Today, yet another grand jury declined to indict a white police officer for gunning down an unarmed black man. I think that makes either three or four since September.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a black protestor shot two white NYPD officers in what he called "retaliation" before turning the weapon on himself.
In Pakistan last week, hundreds of school children were murdered by members of Al Qaeda. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State continues beheading or displacing all who stand in their way.
Meanwhile, here in Topeka, a bipolar man was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping, raping, and murdering an eight-year-old girl from the projects. And every weekend, the world's most famous independent Baptist church continues picketing all over town with signs that scream, "GOD HATES FAGS!"
We are full of violence, hatred, lust, selfishness, and the very worst sorts of decay. And that's on a good day.
"This song isn't about Jesus coming as a baby," I continued. "It's about how he will take our broken world and make it new. He will redeem it and restore it to what it should have been all along. It will be changed, and we will be changed."
"How will he do that, dad?"
"I'm not real sure, son. I just believe he will because he said he would."
"Ok." He sounded like he was much more confident of my answer than I was. "Can we sing it again?"
We did. And even though I had some trouble with the third verse, I forced myself to sing it all the louder:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground!
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found Far as the curse is found Far as, far as the curse is found. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.