“To breathe your last” is an expression I heard many times before, but it only got real this past week when I saw my 94-year-old grandma passing before my eyes. I think we take breathing for granted because it is something so constant in our lives. Like grandmas who are always there and present and reliable without having to even think about it, so is our breath.
But then to see my grandma restless in her bed and working so hard to take in every breath of air for the last few moments of her life brought a whole newfound appreciation for the breath of life running through me.
And with each breath that she took, I wondered when her last would be. I knew it was coming soon, but when would it finally stop? I could not imagine something–someone–so constant and steady suddenly being gone.
Yet as I peered down into her casket today and stared at the still body that she left behind on this earth, I saw her breath was truly gone. In disbelief, I looked harder and waited and almost expected her to gasp for air as if she was actually still alive. It was so unreal. For even at the tailend of her life when I often found her sleeping during my visits, I could still always count on seeing the soft, gentle breath faithfully pumping in and out of her.
Today, however, there was no such thing. Her breath was gone and so is she. Life is but a breath, a vapor, a passing shadow. Quick, short, and gone before you know it.
Now to us who were left–her children, her many grandchildren, and even her great-grandchildren–we were able to gather together for her funeral to remember her and to see her one last time before she was buried. My two-year-old son kept waving to her from afar and wanting to give her a high five, and my four-year-old daughter kept asking to go up to see her. I wasn’t sure what was going through her mind, but I let her go as she wished.
I always saw so much of my grandmother in my daughter. Even as a toddler, I remember bringing her to the nursing home and all the nurses would call her “Little Kap Soon!” It’s the eyes, the hairline, the cheeks, the nose.
Tonight, after she fell asleep from a long day with family, I went into her room a few extra times to check on her because looking at her gives me not only another glimpse of my grandmother, but seeing her is like seeing fullness of life. With her little body curled around her many pillows and blankets, I looked upon her in stark contrast to looking at my grandmother earlier today and saw her breath running through her warm, vibrant body. It is just the beginning for her.
I can still clearly remember the day she was born and the moment we heard her first cry as she took her first breath out in the open world. There was a day my grandmother, too, was a little wee baby, just beginning her life.
While it’s natural to distinguish and appreciate the very first breath as well as the last, it is however perhaps more amazing and noteworthy to think that in between those two breaths were millions and millions of other breaths that the Lord cared to give. To think, from beginning to end, it was the Lord that sustained her every breath. Every. Single. One of them.
He is truly the giver of life.
Yet the most amazing thing is that after that very last breath, which even Jesus experienced on the cross, Jesus conquered and overcame death in this life, so that we all in Christ may be raised and LIVE with Him forevermore.
Yes, my grandmother is alive. More alive than ever before. More alive than my daughter and more alive than all those moments we remember with her in this life. This is life abundant.
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7