In my previous post, I mentioned that I provide respite care for hospice patients. And as a result of this care, I have been thinking about breathing. For the dying person, breathing is what continues to give the body life. Sometimes this breathing is labored, and sometimes it is shallow, barely discernible. The person may be weak and almost comatose, but the breath remains.
Watching patients as they breathe reminds me of the Genesis account of God's breathing into the Adam and the man's becoming a living being. And I am reminded of the first breath of a child outside of the womb. It is the breath that gives life for living in the created world. The body remains animated as long as this breathing continues. But this same breathing brings death on the final exhale.
The breath is the first and the last. The first breath is the inhale and the last breath is the exhale. The breath that God breathed into the living person returns to the Source of the first breath. The first breath is life, the last breath is death.
When Jesus was dying, his final words were ". . . into your hands I commit my spirit," and he breathed his last breath. With the breath, went the spirit. And so, as I reflect on the breathing of the dying patient, wonder seizes me. The wonder comes as I realize that I am witness to a process that ends with the human spirit returning to the One Who Breathed First.