And it came to me then
That every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time

—Death Cab for Cutie, What Sarah Said

Y esterday, I attended the funeral of an extended family member. As I spoke to her children and grandchildren, I discovered that they had the opportunity to be with their mother/grandmother when she passed. Though she was not conscious, they were able to hold her hand, talk softly to her, and bear witness to the final moments of her life. They were sad, but thankful. She was present for each of their beginnings, and they walked her through her end.

In 2009, I experienced another’s end firsthand as I watched my father-in-law breath his final breaths. The victim of an unfortunate accident, his final moments were marked by the trauma of fear, doubt, and tough decisions on the part of our family. During the days leading to his passing, we cried, we prayed, we held each other close, we reminisced, and we waited for some some sign of hope that he might pull through. When the time came, we knew the end was near as we watched the slow fading of his breaths and witnessed that moment when his body no longer held his spirit.

Today, Death Cab for Cutie’s song, What Sarah Saidtook me back to 2009This powerfully touching song captures the essence of the moments leading to that final breath. In it, the music stops suddenly and the culminating line, “love is watching someone die,” emerges like a lightning bolt. Then, we’re left to consider the mixed feelings of grief-filled loss and tender gratitude at being present when we witness someone we love taking their final breaths.

In my experience this week and the vivid memories I hold from 2009, I feel the preciousness of a time that is singular. The unique moment when the end comes and we are left behind with memory, emotion, and heart-wrenching wonder. There is no way to tell if or how a person senses anything at all in those final moments; our voices, our touches, our emotion. But I do know one thing, those final seconds are sacred and sharing them with another human being is a most profound expression of love.