I’ve been sitting with my Mom for a few hours now. She’s quietly breathing. For the first hour, as I sat working on a puzzle in the newspaper her breathing grew gentler and gentler. She seemed quite restful and then she started breathing harder again.
Now, she’s been washed, changed and prepared for the day. She’s been moved to her side so that bedsores don’t develop. Nothing wakes her now. Her mouth gets moistened but she doesn’t drink. She doesn’t eat either.
I’ve watched breathing for a while. I remember as a junior high student when the Joffrey Ballet came and performed at the school. I was chosen to be a back stage assistant. It was there that I learned that ballerinas breathe like race horses. That made me watch their breathing. When they came offstage they were sucking in air through their noses like they were rounding the third bend. But when they were on stage it was hard to tell if they were breathing at all. It didn’t look like it, but if you were close enough you could tell.
I remember countless weddings where breathing was watched, where the breath of the bride and groom were watched intently as the air that came out of them formed into vows. Their breath became the creative elements of life where they produced a building block of society.
The Bible begins with the watching of breath. God’s ruach, his Spirit, his Breath broods, moves, hovers over the waters (that ancient symbol of chaos) and then God’s breath brings forth the tangibly created. It is how life begins, that watched for first gasp, and it is how life ends, the last seen soft release. The life-spirit, the life-breath, that inspires our being in the most physical of moment by moment reality.
“She’s still breathing…”
And so we keep vigil, for it is a precious gift to see.