A Peaceful Hour

I remember Fred Harrison praying
at Antioch Church of Christ,
hands and body tough as oak floors and hardwood pews
from years of milking and the hard work he knew
from farming in West Kentucky,
faith unfeigned, simple words,
and an absolute trust that he was heard
clear through to the throne of heaven.

And when he had finished
asking the Lord’s blessing upon the sick,
upon the church,
upon the seed and the sowing
and whatever was growing at the time,
a final request that always impressed me,
knowing even as a teenager 
what is spoken last is often the most important ask:

“And Lord, when it comes our time to leave this earth,
give us a peaceful hour in which to die.”

I think of this some fifty years later
and five hundred miles away,
sitting with the neighbor across the creek 
in northeast Kansas as he is dying of cancer.

And as I pray for his release
in these last few weeks
of watching Greg Boos slowly lose hold
of what had held him in this world,

and especially in these last several days
of counting the seconds between breaths
and watching for that telling heave
of belly and chest that would serve notice
that he had taken leave for that final rest,

knowing the hours that Debbie and their daughters and son,
the sisters and brothers and grands and other ones who love him,
have sat or stood or knelt beside his bed,
grasped those big, strong hands,
cupped the warmth of his fevered head,
and whispered the words spoken 
in that aching blend of comfort and dread,

“It’s okay.”
“You’re not alone.”
“You can go on home.”

And then finally,
on a stormy Saturday in Doniphan County,
when it seemed that we had gone back
from summer to winter in a single day,
when the bottom lands lay soft 
from the first real rain of the season
bringing a deepening green to the pastures,

you took your last, quiet breaths in your own house, 
surrounded by those who love you,
who had loved you through these two years of cancer,
these two years of slowly turning toward this very moment,
treasuring memories and aching from the separation,
and yet grateful that the exact instant of your release
came with such quiet peace:

“There wasn’t any gasping or fighting for air;
he just stopped breathing.”

And now, even in the ache of our grieving,
we take some comfort in such a quiet leaving.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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