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Posts Tagged ‘dying’

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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En route to work yesterday the radio announcer talked about a young man who had recently become a YouTube sensation. What made him rise to the top was his music, his joie de vivre (the way he lived life to the full) … and the fact that he was dying.

Zach Sobiech, a teenager from Lakeland, Minnisota, from a family of six … mother (Laura), father (Rob), Alli (22), Sam (19), and Grace (14). A senior at high school. A student making plans for college. A musician. A young … young man.

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At fourteen Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and he spent much of the next four years fighting for his life with surgeries and treatments. In May of 2012, Zach’s doctors informed him, and his family, that they felt he only about a year to live … at seventeen years of age.

Encouraged by his mom to write letters to the ones he loved, Zach threw his heart into writing music instead. In December his single, Clouds, was released on YouTube, and at the time of this writing, there have been over three and a half million hits.

On Monday, May 20, 2013, Zach completed his earthly journey, breathing his last with those he loved most, and who will miss him most, gathered around.

“And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now”
‘Clouds’ (Zach Sobiech)

SoulPancake produced a story about Zach, and his incredible will to live each day as if he were dying. “My Last Days” is worthwhile time spent.

“I want everyone to know, you don’t have to find out you are dying, to start living.”
Zach Sobiech

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