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May 2nd, 2012by RC Nzingha

The Easter Season is many things to many people.  For the not so religious it is a time for shopping for the latest fashions, planning and executing the perfect egg hunt, and finding all the best-tasting chocolate creations that now come in all forms. For the Catholic religious, it begins with Lent, leading up to Holy Week with a hard-core press of services from Holy Thursday until Easter morning Mass.  Then we begin the Great Fifty Days of Easter on our way to Pentecost.

A great part of my Lenten season, Easter and the beginning of the Great Fifty Days, this year was spent at the Blue Ash Hospice.  A sister I’ve had my entire sojourn in Cincinnati was there preparing to transition.  Death to us as humans, even to those of us that believe and share faith…death is still an unknown.  Yet, once you spend time in a one-on-one in arena with an individual whom you love and have shared some of the best times of your life…death fades in comparison to suffering.

There were three of us that, as my grandmother would say, “sat vigil” with Cheryl and her mother Queenie. It was a journey that began in October and ended in April, snuffing out the infectious smile, the good humor and zest for life this sister embodied.

Pat was with Cheryl when the ambulance arrived at mother’s house for the trip to Hospice.  I was the first responder the day of admission. Then we began the sometimes-coordinated phone calls and many emergency calls assuring that her mother was never alone for any prolonged period of time without one of us.

I personally held her mother as she cried the Monday the charge nurse explained the stages of death.  Then our routine became much more synchronized. Pat would cover mornings; I was the afternoon and late evening person.  Kamaria came afternoons from Dayton after leaving work.  We shared this cycle with two other sisterfriends of Cheryl’s we met during her time in hospice.  Together…the five of us were much like a human hand.

Cheryl had attended seminary.  Kamaria and I were the designated daily scripture readers.  Many days both of us were reading at different times. Cheryl was fond of the 23rd Psalm.  There were consecutive days I read Psalms 23-27 and all of II Timothy.  As she advanced into the fourth stage of death, I realized I was no longer reading to Cheryl but reading for me.

Our last set of coordinated phone calls came the day Cheryl transitioned.  Pat was ill and didn’t think she could make it.  She called me; I in turn called Kamaria and asked that she not leave until I arrived.  Cheryl transitioned literally minutes prior to my arrival.  Kamaria had stayed and her mother was not alone.

I then began making the necessary calls to notify family members that had allowed us for years to share Cheryl with them.  Eventually all were present and accounted for…her dad, two brothers, her husband, and four of the five sisters.

Cheryl’s mother allowed us to complete the journey that began for me twenty-plus years ago. We did the entire funeral service excluding the eulogy, which was done by her minister.

Our theme for the Easter Season at my parish this year was On the Way to Resurrection.  My personal journey this year was more spiritually enlightening than ever before.  I can now look forward to my journey to resurrection without reservations.

RC Nzingha

RC Nzingha lives in the community of Pleasant Ridge with her husband and youngest son. She attends Resurrection Parish in Bond Hill and is the VP of the Board of Directors of the Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills Soup Kitchens