"Now doc, don't be afraid to tell me if I'm gonna die soon," my 76-year-old patient with sever heart failure was telling me last week as we talked in his home in a nearby village. Three months earlier he was in the hospital. Now, because of the unusually cold winter weather, he was hesitant to come to the clinic and I'd been seeing him at home every few weeks since to adjust his medicines.
Do we ever really know what transpires in anyone's last moments here on earth, or just exactly how God might speak to an individual's heart and what the response might be? Of course we want to believe that dying souls say "yes" to Christ and escape eternal torment, but this remains unknown to us at this time. Our understanding is incomplete.
Many mornings my wife and I awaken to the doleful droning of the suona, an incredibly loud horn used at funerals. Our 5th-floor apartment is next to the hospital and we can see the morgue behind the hospital from our bedroom window. The suona players come to accompany the body as it is carried from the morgue back to the village for funeral and burial. Back in the village mourners wrap their heads in strips of white cloth and don ragged white clothing—white is the color of sorrow. Some wail and faint, having to be carried, as they walk along with the bier. It's quite a vivid visual and auditory picture of loss and hopelessness.