17 August 2017

Reflections on Living When Death Is Near

These past few days I've spent alongside my mother, who has been, quite abruptly, diagnosed with terminal cancer throughout her body.  We've spent time holding hands and sharing about life and memories of the past.  We've had conversations about streets of gold and seeing Jesus face to face.  We've sat in silence as the tears came to my eyes, despite her wishes for us to be joyful for her.  We've even planned her Celebration of Life with her admonition to not wear black but "happy colors!"

Yes, she is tired and her body weak.  But, Mom is an incredible optimist, looking for the best in every situation.  She desires no pain medication other than Tylenol.  She wants to be lucid at all times without the fog of narcotics to dull her senses.  I respect that immensely.  She has always been a woman who has wanted zero attention on her but looked after everyone else.  I honor that in her and thank God as I write.

Yet, it's all a bit surreal.  I regularly have the privilege of walking families through this season, but now when it comes to my own family, I am experiencing a different feeling altogether.  I lack the words of comfort I normally have.  My thoughts are cloudy, at best.  I have no idea how to support my sister who will be her primary caretaker with appropriate love and compassion.

The anguish of my soul at knowing my Mom will not live much longer fluctuates between a warm realization of the rest in store for her in Jesus' arms to a resigned acceptance of the truth that I will no longer have her here for her grandchildren.  Oh how many times I lack the right thing to say or think, but somehow this is completely foreign.  I am strangely...numb.

It is in days like these I turn to the only surety I know - God's own words for us.  Sunday morning, ironically, in my quiet time before God, I'm studying 1st Thessalonians.  If you've been a Christian for a while, you may know chapter 4.  Wouldn't you know it...I began at vs. 13.  It reads:

"And now brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died." (4:13-14, NLT)

Let me tell you...this helped.  Vs. 18 says... "So comfort and encourage each other with these words."  Yes, it talks of death, but it provides me hope in the future life we have as followers of Christ!  And Mom knows this as a fact.  She is confident in her eternity...why?  She summed her whole life this way:  "I was once Saul, but now I am Paul."  She had a rough go of it early in life, living outside God's will for her, as Saul did.  But God changed him...and her!  And now she proclaims Good News to people, as Paul did in the Bible, with her life!

Today, I continued in 1st Thessalonians, and these words are so appropriate for us:  "For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return.  So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." (5:9-11, NLT)

These become words I now have when I possess none to say!  And they are yours, too.  Trust Jesus with your life, as Mom does, and receive that security that she has for her future...when death is near.