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When Breathing is Hard


We love to share Hannah Fordice’s writings with you... she writes so beautifully, sharing her heart with her readers... 

I'd never seen someone die, so I guess I didn't know what to expect.

In movies the family is told there isn't much time, they gather around the hospital bed and whisper their goodbyes. The passing itself a flutter of eyelids, a chest that stops moving and the soul is gone.

Perhaps that is what death looks like in some cases, I can't really say. But it's not what it looked like for her.

She went into an unresponsive state on a Monday morning in October. The leaves outside were turning flares of red and orange, like the trees had caught fire.

"There isn't much time"

So we gathered around her bed and whispered our love, our goodbyes. They said we should tell her that it's okay to go home, to go to heaven, her work here was done. As if somehow our lips held the key codes to the door of eternity.

But the door stayed shut.

We tried pounding on it with our prayers, begging it to open just a crack for her soul to slip through, for the suffering to end. But it held fast, as eternal things have a way of doing.

Eventual her chest stopped moving and we all wondered if this was it, if the battle was over.

Thirty seconds. A minute. And then against all odds, another labored breath.

It went on like this for two weeks. Us taking turns timing her breaths on a stop watch, sometimes nearly two minutes apart. Waiting, waiting for when another one wouldn't follow.

Unsure whether to pray for more time or for it to be finished.

And in that purgatory between her breaths, I thought about the very first breath. Darkness and silence and deep nothingness.

Then He exhaled.

A million stars and galaxies flared into being, their orbits set by the swirling eddies of his sigh.

Thirty seconds. A minute. A forever. And then against all odds, another breath and the world with all its creatures was expelled.

"By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host."
— Psalm 33:6

The pause between the breaths, the waiting. There within that sacred, silent space that goes on for a tiny infinity is the anticipation of birth, death, rebirth. Both tantalizing and terrible. Both desirous and disastrous.

There was the breath God used to breathe her into being and eventually the final one that expelled her into the heavens.

She died on a Friday morning in October.

The leaves outside crumpling up and letting go of their branches, her body releasing its tenuous grip at last, her soul floating away. And we gripped the blankets around her in fists and cried and prayed.

And on the other side of that last earthly exhale she was inhaling the sweetest, purest air of paradise. No more cancer or treatments or crying or fear or tumors or pain.

"And Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'"
— Luke 23:43

Here we are two years out from that final earthly breath, and the leaves are crunching under our feet on the way to the grave and there is an early flurry of snow in the air.

"Cold like death" I keep thinking.

But thats how seasons work, and spring and new life can't be born without death first.

And on the days I feel like the missing is crushing my own chest in, like I can't manage another gasp of this cursed air of grief, I hold onto the space between breaths.

The reminder that we are waiting for the world to be made right, and that the God who created it all is still exhaling redemption.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"
— Revelation 21: 4-5

You can find Hannah’s blog: https://www.rubbleandrescue.com/blog 

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    I’m turning 62 this year. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
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    I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
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    I am currently finishing my degree in relational communications and plan to graduate in the spring of 2020!! I am thankful I have had time to grow, heal, appreciate a slower pace of living, and to invest more time into relationships with family, friends, and God. Through this process I am learning what I want to prioritize in my life and figuring out ways to make that happen. Most of all, I am figuring out that life is all about process, taking steps closer to where I want to be and celebrating the little victories but also accepting that there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way.
  • Sally


    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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