Comfort at Death

Alan Noble
2 min readFeb 8, 2018

I stretched out on the couch with my arms crossed and a blanket over me, trying to nap and fight off the flu. My two-year-old daughter stood next to me. She wanted me to play dollhouse with her. When I would tell her I was too tired, she’d reply, “two minutes,” and hold up two stubby little fingers with a look of utter seriousness. After I explained that I was sick and needed to rest, she said, “poor daddy,” and came over and hugged me, “You’ll be alright. I promise.” I closed my eyes, hoping she would finally let me rest, but she stood next to me for what felt like a long time, and then she patted my hands as if to say, “there, there.”

I wondered, would it feel like this as an old man, dying in a hospital, with my youngest daughter sitting by the bedside, waiting for it to happen? All I could think was that I wanted her there, beside me, in that hospital room, when that day comes. What of the fear of nothingness? Lying on the couch, envisioning this common scene that awaits almost all of us, I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t afraid of going into the darkness. Why not? It was her. It was her irreducible personhood close by me. Her being is a puzzle that only God’s goodness and presence can solve. When I am an old man, dying in a strange hospital bed, if only I can have one of my children near me, I won’t be afraid. The miracle of their being will be enough to remind me of God’s goodness.

She went back to playing doll house and let me rest. And I lay there, crying.

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Alan Noble

Associate Professor of English, Oklahoma Baptist University, author of Disruptive Witness, You Are Not Your Own, and On Getting Out of Bed (soon).