"Pride slays thanksgiving .... A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." Henri Ward Beecher : Life Thoughts, Gathered from the Extemporary Discourses of Henri Ward Beecher.
In a busy, go-get-it orientated age, to introduce the topic of death into a conversation or as a blog post, is hardly considered appropriate. Death, however, is the one true fact that all humans of every ethnicity, religion, social class, mental and physical ability, career path and financial attainment, will experience.
Three weeks ago my Mum died in Australia, just three days before her 90th birthday. All her children were with her attempting to provide an atmosphere of what she loved and held dear, in the midst of swearing and awkward visitor conversations with the other patients in Mum's room.
I thought it was like a circus, my sisters who had lived in Africa said it was all very 'African'.
Apart from the beeping drip monitors, Mum seemed oblivious to the inappropriate happenings, even the publicness of the man on his bed-pan, just through the curtain.
My Mum, always quietly elegant, wore gloves to drive the car as a young mum, wore clip-on earrings and foundation makeup everyday, till the week before she died.
But as the poets have said, in these hours leading up to death, the practices and preferences of a lifetime are left and only what is truly precious is held on to.
As all participants in her funeral said, as things became tougher in her latter years, my Mum increasingly grew and received energy from giving thanks. What a seemingly insignificant and child-like practice! But in the face of death it shows a different side. The inconveniences of the room and her physical struggle did not change.
In the three years since Ann Voskamp's book "one thousand gifts" had been published, my Mum had read it seven times that we know of. The book's subtitle "A DARE to LIVE FULLY right where you are", had been practiced so that in the hours of pneumonia death, she was ready, she knew radical gratitude and so trusted her now as well as her future, to God.
This was not some mind exercise in positive thinking. It was real. A person had been changed - we, her four daughters who knew her so closely, saw it. Her practiced thankfulness had made her grateful, confident and incredibly beautifully attractive - if you can understand that to be possible in a frail, body-wrinkled woman.
I miss my daily phone conversations with her, where my purpose was to encourage, but the reality was the reverse. But I am so thankful that I saw this real side to my Mum and that she left us with these clear memories of hope.