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On death and dying – a woman reflects on her brother’s last days

On death and dying – a woman reflects on her brother’s last days

By Rick Hinton 

Faithful reader of The Southside Times, Tess Baker, retired since 2010, has thoughts on the finality when we move onto another existence. In the spring of 2016 she reflected upon a story that had personal ramifications in her life: “New spring blooms are everywhere and I’m thinking about death and dying,” she said. “We all do it. We all know that when we are born, no one leaves this earth in human form – our bodies are left behind, discarded by our spirit that goes on somewhere. Every culture has this knowledge and belief, however primitive and rituals to make it more bearable. But we still don’t really know what happens after death.”

“This terrible fear of dying, part of it instinctive, keeps us from doing stupid things that hasten our death. Faith is supposed to keep the fear of dying at bay,” she added. “My brother Steve, a faithful Catholic, went to church every Sunday and (attended) Bible study during the week. His social life was his church. The two standards in his life were job and faith. I never saw him without either one.

Steve Baker (Photo by Tess Baker)

“He went to the dentist one day in May of 2012. Blood in his mouth was coming from somewhere and his dentist dismissed him, telling him to go to the nearest emergency room. Admitted into the hospital for further tests, Steve went from a daily routine to giving his life and soul to a cancer growing in his head which metastasized to his kidneys the last four months of his life.”

“When released from the hospital and told he needed constant supervision, we (my older brother, his wife, my daughter and I) spent Memorial Day weekend cleaning out his apartment. We all became his support group. It was my job to run a gauntlet of scheduling nurse care, rehab visits, hospice and visits from the family priest. The last professional visit was the hospice doctor, giving instructions on pain medication, helping my brother through his ordeal.

Tess and Steve Baker. (Photo by Tess Baker)

“I held his hand one hot summer night and folded one of our mother’s earrings inside his palm. I told him that mom was waiting for him and she would be there to greet him. He needn’t fear death. Yet, the person I thought most likely to be calm in death, was terrified and fought for days, clinging to what was left of his life. I assured Steve that mother was there. I was so sure of it. Our mother went home to heaven in 1984, yet I was positive that if one person was ever sitting at the throne of Jesus, it would be her. That night, Steve went home, free of pain forever.”

“I am not afraid of death anymore,” Tess stated. “I think there is a point in old age when death becomes more welcome. Relatives and friends that have gone before you are going to come for you and bring you home. I’m still living life, loving my backyard, exercise classes, shopping and short trips – the world I have come to love still means so much to me. But there is something else out there, and it’s wonderful beyond everything imaginable,” Tess smiled. “My mother told me so.”

One of the very pamphlets I received when my own mother was under hospice care. It outlines the months, weeks and days before a loved one’s passing. (Photo by Rick Hinton)

My wife Laura’s father is presently in hospice care at home. The clock is ticking down. A booklet given us states that the loved one, in the last days, has one foot still in this world and the other in the spiritual world. When it is time, as with Steve Baker, they remove the foot from this world.

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