Back when my husband was in seminary, I worked at Baylor Medical Center as a secretary to the chaplain, nurse, social worker and nutritionist of the Sammons Cancer Center.
We put together support groups for cancer patients and offered counseling and information for those in need.
Quite frequently, my co-workers would come in and download about specific uplifting encounters with patients and sometimes, extremely difficult ones as well.
One particular day, our nurse came in somewhat shaken by an incident that had occurred in one of the patient’s rooms and she needed a chance to process what had happened.
A loved one was dying and as the family stood around crying, they began to shout, “Satan, leave! You have no place here!” Our nurse was trying to do her job to help ease the patient in their passing only to be told that she was the one who was keeping the healing from taking place and that her presence brought the devil into the room!
They insisted she leave and she did so in tears.
She came back to our office needing to process why, when she was trying to serve as an angel of mercy so to speak, was she being accused of being the devil himself!
I have no doubt that the family was grieving deeply, gripped by fear of losing their loved one and in a world of hurt and pain.
But, had anyone ever told them that death would come to them and their loved ones at some point?
Were they not prepared for this day so that whenever it came, it would not catch them spiraling out of control?
Maybe they wanted a repeat of the Bible story of when Jesus raised his friend, Lazarus from the grave?
Did they not know though, that at some point, later on, Lazarus died again and this time was raised to heaven and not again to earth?
I think of my dear friends who are preparing to send their loved one off to heaven soon.
Everything that could be done on this earth and all the prayers lifted up seem to point to the fact, that she will be leaving here sooner than any of us would like.
Yet in the midst of this terminal prognosis, there has been a sweetness in the journey as I have watched them prepare for that which they cannot stop.
Oh, this has not been an easy road for any of them and there have been many tears shed, questions asked and fears expressed.
But there has been a preparation and a solid decision that the patient and the family would accept the inevitable and instead of fight it, work with the process and channel their energy into making memories and loving each other well.
They have leaned heavily on the Savior who has promised to carry them here and free them from the sting of death for all eternity to come.
As I have watched this family lean into the pain, I realize that death and dying is a great sorrow, and that is why Jesus came to defeat it once and for all on the cross.
I realize too, that although we can’t stop death in this world, we can choose how we will face it when it knocks at our door.
I remember when I was in Junior High and came home one day to be told by my parents that a dear family friend who was a young wife and mother had just passed away.
I ran to my room in tears and opened my Bible for comfort and found a passage that I love to this day:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.
And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Death will come.
Grieving will happen.
It will either occur with hope or without it.
That is a decision only we can make.