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Posts Tagged ‘Death’

  

Life carries on …

This was the prevailing thought as I left work today, heavy with the weight of grief in a world that does not cease to spin for anything or anyone.

A colleague for much of the past thirteen years died, after a brief battle with cancer. Though she has been missing from our hallowed halls since before the Christmas break, the finality of death leaves a unexpected shock in its wake. 

We went to sleep last night knowing that our friend and co-worker was experiencing an other-worldly peace that passes understanding, and we awoke today to the everyday battles of work in a high school. 

It wasn’t until the end of the day, when her family were prayed for at a staff meeting, that many of us realized that we had not yet begun to mourn.

And we mourn.

And we know that we will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Late last August our staff reunited and dreamed of a new school year, none of us aware that one would cease to breathe life’s sweet breath before June’s final bell rang.

And so we grieve the death of our friend and colleague, we grieve for her family, but we also mourn for ourselves, as our knowledge in the fragility of life has been flashed before our eyes. We are not guaranteed four score and ten. We are only given right now. 

On her “about” page on her blog (nodroppedstitches)she shared who she knew she was:

“I am the creation spoken about in Psalm 139:13 – 16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

Our friend was not expected to live, from the moment she was born. Her health was fragile throughout her life, yet she lived to experience so much of what one might dream for … friendships, marriage, children, grandchildren, further education even up to a year ago and gardening through it all. Doctors through the years had hypothesized her end numerous times … but her days were written before her first breath, by the One who breathed life into her.

As is the same for each one of us.

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It’s been a week filled with talk of death, confirmed and pending.

Our kids often say their friends find their relaxed, nonchalant manner of speaking of death odd. I remember one day, years ago, when one of our kids had a friend over. At dinner time I announced that dinner that night would be funeral food, and the eyes of our visitor popped from her head. What followed was a discussion of how sometimes, when there is food left over from a funeral or memorial reception, it gets shared with those who were involved in the service. As hubby is a pastor, who officiates many such services, he sometimes gets offered a plate of the left overs. This is not a normal event for the typical household.

Our kids are often privy to the technical details of funeral planning, of the humanity and humor of funeral directors. They hear of their dad’s visits with those who are dying, and of the stages leading up to the final earthly breath a soul makes. They have heard him speak, eyes heavy, voice unsteady, of having visited so one for the final time, knowing that he will not see them again until reaching that Fovererland of eternity. This job of pastor is as much about saying goodbye as saying welcome.

I like that our kids are growing up in an environment where they see and know that death is part of life. That grieving and tears are okay. That loss touches everyone. That no man or woman is an island, and death touches many.

I also like the frequent reminders that death is inevitable, because death, more than anything else, reminds me to live.

Last week, with each Facebook update, my heart paused, my lungs emptied of their air, my eyes filled, my throat swelled. Death is around the corner for a woman, and cancer is the vehicle that is driving her there.

A young mom, who I’ve only met a couple of times, yet she has been on my prayer list off and on for the past eight to ten years that she has battled this disease. She, her husband and three (nearing, and into adolescence) children have been give the news that their wife and mom only has days, maybe short weeks to share a smile, a laugh, share the embrace that says security and unconditional love.

When I read that update, the one that spoke of a time limit for this life, I sighed, heavy.

Then I thought to myself, how would I live my life, today, if I knew it was one of my last on Earth? Particularly, how would I live today, as a mom?

I’ve decided not to share how I would live, but I am challenging each of us to ask this question of ourselves. I am challenging each of us to live, today, as if we knew it to be one of our last.

I also ask you to please pray for this woman, and her family as they all walk her, together, to heaven’s gate.

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When I was a kid attending Sunday School we sang a song about heaven …

“Heaven is a wonderful place
Filled with glory and grace
I wanna see my Saviours face
Heaven is a wonderful place.
I wanna go there”

But, I can also remember hearing a speaker talk about the excitement of one day going to heaven, then say, “I don’t want to die, I like it here.”

There are times when I understand both perspectives on heaven, the desire to go there as well as the desire to never leave this Earth.

A friend is in the midst of awaiting the joyful news of her mother-in-laws passing into eternity. Now this might just sound like a daughter-in-law who is eager to be freed of her evil M.I.L., but that is not the case at all. This lady is ninety-seven, tired of her decaying physical body, and eager for the home her heart longs for … her heavenly home. My friend purely desires for this dear lady to have her prayers answered, and to sit at the feet of her Savior.

Another is mourning the diagnosis of her good friend … terminal cancer. This woman is my age, with children younger than my own. She is holding onto life here with white knuckle determination. She likes it here.

Then another who told me of a story of her dad having a heart attack and her mom saving his life. When her dad came to in the hospital, he refused to talk to his lifelong partner and wife, for days. It was not until much later that he explained that he resented her … because she brought him back to life. You see he has memories of moving towards a warm and bright light, and a feeling of peace he had not known before or since. He had no thoughts of his life or his loves on Earth, and his longing was to continue toward the light.

Thinking of heaven always brings me back to the book of Revelation :

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said,
“I am making everything new!”
Then he said,
“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:1-5

The image created in Revelation is of a dream that would be hard to awaken from. To dwell with our God is to have an Eden-like experience. There is “no death or mourning or crying or pain” … as a female, it is difficult to imagine no crying (maybe that is easier for males). It is difficult to imagine no pain.

The reality is that I think our problem is not in thinking about going to heaven, but thinking about leaving Earth.

I believe that once we are there, ‘here’ does not exist in our thoughts … because what we go to, like that man who was traveling towards the light, is what our heart longs for from the moment we are first created.

“Indeed, we groan with this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven …”
2 Corinthians 5:2

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“Where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?”

The other night I was repeatedly listening to a song, when I noticed a friend who lives not too far away, posted that she had just felt what she was certain must have been an earthquake.

Indeed it was an earthquake on the Northwest Coast. Another physical reminder that ‘the big one’ is anticipated … some day …

I thought it ironic that I was hearing about an earthquake, while listening to the song called Pompeii, by the English band, Bastille. Pompeii, of course, being the Roman city which, in 79AD, was covered by up to over twenty feet of volcanic ash, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, decimating the community. Although the name of the song, and even it’s ‘story’ is a reminder of death and destruction, the song has a fantastic beat that beckons the listeners feet to tap (at a minimum).

When the city of Pompeii was re-discovered, almost two hundred years after it’s burial, people were found entombed by solidified ash, in the very positions they were when they died.

According to lead singer Dan Smith, the song’s lyrics are his imaginings of a conversation between two individuals as they were living and breathing their last in that city of great tragedy.

One line in the song is :

“Where do we begin?
The rubble or our sins?”

Those lines seem so fitting to be contemplating as one is potentially facing eternity (and aren’t we all?).

Genesis 2:7 tells us,

“ … the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”

Clearly, our beginning comes when God breaths life into us … we are not a body, we are a soul.

Then Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us of our Earthly ending,

 “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”

Our dusty human bodies will, like the people of Pompeii, return to their earthly beginnings, and our spirit back to the hands of the one who gave it.

The end.

NOT!

John 11:25 provides something

beyond death …

“I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in Me,
though he may die,
he shall live.”

Beyond the rubble, beyond the sin we begin with believing in our Creator.

 

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Days ago I received an email from a lovely lady, catching up her email group about the status of the health of her hubby, dealing with terminal cancer. I read, I sighed … the end seemed near.

And now his end has opened the door for his greatest beginning.

Death can be hard. It is a separation from those we love. It is an end to life as we know it. It is absence of presence.

But death does not have to be … final.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 is a verse that hubby (who is a pastor) often quotes when dealing with death and dying, tears and grief, separation and absence. In a nutshell (Carole version) it says,

“by the way, I almost forgot, when you are faced with the death of another follower of Christ, don’t worry. We do not mourn as those who have no hope”

The hope that is available to all who choose to accept it is the hope that the birth of Christ (which was celebrated just weeks ago) provided. Christ, the redemption, or Savior, of our sins. Because of His sacrificial death on a cross, we never have to experience death the same way. Death is no longer an eternity of nothingness, or an eternity of suffering. It is an eternity of life, and not just life as we have it here and now, but eternity without “mourning, or crying or pain.”

This hope is not something easy to understand or explain.

This hope is kind of like those bulbs that you might have planted back in the fall. They were hard and lifeless. Yet, we planted them in the ground, believing that their energy and life were simply dormant, sleeping. We had hope that one spring day, the kinetic energy within would awaken, and that the life within would burst through the ground … beautifully reminding us of the new and fresh life that comes from that which sleeps for a time … then comes fully alive.

May we accept the hope that allows us to mourn differently … hope-fully.

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As someone our family loves is going through the medical procedures to have the extent of cancer growth in his body investigated, ‘it’ is in the forefront of our minds. May God hold him in the palm of his hand, and may we be scared enough to live.

It scares us.

It makes us contemplate our life, and our death.

It is like a dark shadow that is possibly around the next corner, or not.

It may not touch us physically, but it will touch us all.

It will come into our life, and it just might take our life from us.

The ‘it’ I speak of is cancer.

For most of us, the word cancer is familiar … too familiar. Cancer is a word that is synonymous with death, because, for us all, there is someone we have known whose body has succumbed to that disease. At the same time, for us all, there is someone who has beaten that disease.

Cancer happens when abnormal cells grow and spread very fast. Cancer cells are like bunnies, they reproduce, quickly, and can take over their environment.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 40-45% of Canadians will develop cancer, while 24-29% actually die of the disease.  That means that, if diagnosed with the disease, you still have have a good chance of survival.

I just received my reminder of it being time for a mammogram (remember last summer’s posts Mammo 1, and Mammo 2?). It states: I have to say that the line, “early detection saves lives” is the main motivator for me to make that important appointment.

After a stint volunteering at Camp Goodtimes, a camp for kids affected by cancer, my daughter ‘debriefed’ with me about her experiences, her feelings and what she learned.

Well learn she did, and she brought her education home to mama.

What she learned was that those families with children or moms or dads with cancer are learning to keep living through the battle. They do not stop living. Instead, they live more intentionally, more fully, because they live with the shadow of death hanging over their heads. They know that every day is a gift. They know that every day is an opportunity.

She told me of the people she met, and how cancer was NOT what they talked about.

The kids talked about taking pictures of a cute guy, or of eating a yummy treat, or of swimming in the frigid lake. The parents talked about their kids, their jobs, and their homes.

The last night was an evening meal for the adults without the kids … the kids had a party. Once their separate meals were done, they all joined together for a big, fun, loud, joyous dance.

As she told me of their dancing, I was reminded of the numerous times that I have heard of joyous dancing before:

“… the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.”
Esther 9:22

“… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

“Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”
Jeremiah 31:13

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy”
Psalm 30:11

And it reminded me that we all have the shadow of death hanging over our heads. We are all going to die one day, and we should all live each day as though death were at our doorstep. Being cancer free does not mean that we have any guarantees of tomorrow.

Go and live as though you are being threatened by the Big C … dance!

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For the next week, I will be featuring guest posts, as I spend my regular ‘writing time’ preparing for a speaking engagement. If you feel led to pray for me in this regard, I would so appreciate it, and specifically that Pinterest does not pre-occupy my writing time 😉 … I am so weak !

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The guest post today was a guest post from a blog I subscribe to and read regularly. It is a heartwarming story that had me hearing that older story/song A Touch of the Master’s Hand.

Enjoy this lovely story.

“There was an elderly grandfather who had dementia and was in the last stages of that illness. The grandfather lived with his son’s family. One of his grandchildren was a girl of about 10 years old who loved her grandfather very much and couldn’t understand why he said things that didn’t make sense. She didn’t understand why he would yell out words in the middle of the night and wake everyone up. She didn’t understand why he didn’t know who she was. She didn’t understand why he changed and didn’t laugh and joke with her like he used to.

One day the granddaughter was exploring her grandfather’s possessions that were all stored in the attic of their home. She opened one of the trunks that she thought appeared to be a ‘pirate’s’ chest. To her surprise among other things it contained a violin case which she immediately opened. No her young eyes weren’t trained or she would have been able to recognize the caliber of musical instrument that this violin was.

From that time and for many days she would sneak up to the attic, take the pristine violin out of it’s case and hold it. One time she actually took the bow and ran it across the strings, which produced a squeaky sound. From that time on she kept practicing on the violin’ She was cautious to play softly so that no one would hear the ‘out-of-tune’ sounds she made on it and take it away from her.

The grandfather’s health was deteriorating rapidly and this was hard for the little girl who deeply loved her grandfather or “Papaw” as she called him. The girl’s name was Sierra. Sierra had been told that her grandfather was very sick and that she wasn’t to go to his room unless her mom or dad was with her. One day she decided to break those rules. Sierra decided to go into the grandfather’s room with her newly found violin and play him a song, howbeit she knew no cords but she could make noise” …

To continue this story click http://rogertharpe.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/.

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