The Death Watch

The death watch is what I found the hardest part of nursing during my years as an intensive care nurse and honestly I think it is the hardest part of life.  My husbands father’s health has been a roller coaster since January 19th and he has not been able to make it out of a hospital setting since.  The last two and a half weeks he has been in critical condition in an intensive care unit.  One day he would take baby steps forward and the next day a step back.  With all the surgeries, medications, procedures, and treatments it became clear yesterday that his body was just worn out.  The family was faced with the decision to stop treatments and allow him to pass peacefully and comfortably.  Some death watches are quick and a shock like my father was on March 11th last year.  Sometimes they take hours or days this death watch was about twenty four hours. Sometimes a loved one goes to visit their family and finds their family member already passed with no decisions left to be made.  This happened to a friend of ours with his father just this week.  I think of those in the hands of murderous evil barbarians waiting for their execution and murder. No matter the circumstances it is so hard.  As a patient advocate it always has broken my heart for the patient as they go through the agonizing transition from physical life to death.  Memories of patients and their families keep flooding my mind.  Each experience is forever etched into my memory and has become a part of what defines my own life.

To realize that God actually came down to go through this agonizing experience of physical death is amazing to me.  Jesus’ agony started in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prayed “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42 Knowing what was coming he was in such agony he sweat drops of blood.  “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Luke 22:44

We are sinful undeserving people yet God came to face the agony of physical death as well as carry the weight of all mankind’s sin.  We still face physical death, but when we put our trust in Jesus we don’t have to face death of our soul.   We do not have to be separated from God the giver of life.   Jesus had the ultimate death watch.   As he was in agony gasping for breath on that cross with every nerve ending in his body screaming in pain he cried out “It is Finished”  John 19:30  He paid the price of sin once and for all.   He rose again in three days victorious over physical and spiritual death!!   My husbands father was a wonderful man, but through many conversations with him he wasn’t really confident in putting his trust in Jesus.  After his heart stopped and he was revived a few weeks ago we had a few limited conversations.  Every time I said to him God gave you another chance and has you here for a reason he nodded his head “yes” aggressively.  A week ago Saturday evening I found myself with the opportunity to speak with him alone.  He had a breathing mask on and he is hard of hearing so I trust that the Holy Spirit helped cross the communication barriers.  I asked him if he remembered me going to speak with him about Jesus a little over a year ago and he nodded “yes”.  I asked him if he saw Jesus when his heart stopped and they were reviving him.  Again he nodded “yes”.  I asked him if he now believed that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for him?  Again he nodded his head “yes”.    Through that whole conversation we were staring each other straight in the eyes.  We don’t get to know on this side of heaven, but if that nod of the head “yes” was sincere then that is where he is today.   God is a God of second chances and every soul is worth that death on the cross to him.  All we have to do is say “yes I believe that Jesus is the Son of God”.  If you have never said “yes” to Jesus please don’t waste another minute.  We don’t know when it may be our last chance.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We Can’t Protect our Kids from Life Forever

About five years ago our pet cat’s health was failing.  Each day I observed that breathing became a greater and greater struggle for him.  My suspicion was heart failure.  I knew there was a decision that needed to be made.  Not wanting to make the decision to put him down I had hoped the cat would decide for me and pass peacefully in his sleep here at home.  No such luck.  The day of the veterinarian appointment arrived and our dear pet was still hanging on.  My two daughters and I took our sweet “Chauncy” to the vet and my suspicions were confirmed.  The vet looked at me, nodded, and said “yes it is time”.  He asked if we wanted to be in the room.  I immediately blurted out “yes” not really thinking twice about what the girls would think.  My assumption was that they would want to be with their buddy as he breathed his last.  It was later that day or maybe the next day that my youngest daughter yelled at me that I made her go into that room.  Of course I apologized because I had no clue that I was forcing her.  I answered “yes” when the vet asked if we wanted to be present.  I heard no protest from the girls and thought all was fine other than the heart break of losing our beloved pet.  Once I had her look through the eyes of our cat her anger toward me was resolved.  I asked her how she would feel if she were Chauncy on that cold metal table left to breath his last with a stranger?  Then I asked if it would have been more comforting to Chauncy to be surrounded by his family that loved him?  She agreed that our presence was much better for our suffering cat.

Now we have gone from losing a beloved pet about five years ago to losing a beloved grandpa just short of a year ago.  Now the girl’s other beloved grandpa is so very very sick. I can’t protect them from the feeling of hurt and loss.  Death is a natural part of life and it is something that everyone that loves others has to face.  With the sorrow the realization of the blessing of that loved one is realized much more greatly.  It is so hard to watch those you love who were once so full of life struggle.  Life is so hard and somehow we need to teach our children how to embrace each moment with those we love.  To teach them to  be thankful for the sweet memories.  To be supportive and not turn their backs when those we love need us most.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.      

As a parent I feel a tremendous responsibility to teach my children how to truly live.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

eve and papa

My mother caught this moment with her phone yesterday and it has stirred tremendous emotion within me from the moment I first laid eyes on the photo.

The man’s face in the photo is my father.  When he died in March the funeral director took a great photo my mom had of my father and she and had it made into a tapestry.  My mom has the tapestry placed on the back of her couch in the center of her home with dad’s face exposed very prominently. The photo of my father was a priceless photo that caught the true essence of the person he was on this earth.  It captures the Christ-like love and joy that poured from his eyes and his life.  It captures the expression he would have had if he were actually there holding his precious little grand daughter.

That day my sweet four year old niece was not feeling well.  My mom cared for her while my sister and brother-in-law were at work.  First they were at my sister’s home and decided to watch the video of pictures of my father from his funeral.  One of my mother’s greatest concerns has been that her grandkids have not had the opportunity to express their grief as his death was such a surprise.  At the time we were all focused on our own personal loss of him.  Grief is different for us all, but we all feel the loss no matter our age or the amount of years spent with the one we love.  Evelyn only had four short years and it is important to us all that she and all the grandkids get to know what an amazing Godly man their Papa was.  Shoot I had 41 years and I still feel like the time was cut way too short.  My mother had 44 1/2 years of marriage to him and longs to have had more time.

Mom and sweet Evelyn then went to my mother’s house for some lunch and to watch a movie.  Evelyn had spent a lot of time there with Papa watching movies and eating popcorn. It was after the movie my mom caught this moment.  She said Evelyn was hugging and had been actually rubbing her hand along my father’s face.  Torn, she decided to go ahead and take a picture of the moment.  The longing in Evelyn’s eyes is priceless.  It makes my heart hurt all over again for our loss.  This picture of Evelyn reflects what is happening with this little girl that is still inside of my 41 year old body.  There are days that I still want to hug my daddy’s face.  There are moments that I want his advice or to just take a long walk looking at God’s creation with him.  Evelyn’s expression doesn’t just capture the emotion of our family, but of all people hurting and missing a loved one.   No matter who we are there is still a sweet little 4 year old within us all that longs for that fatherly love.

Many of us may never get to know the love of a earthly father like I was so blessed with.  This is not a bragging statement, but an acknowledgment of the fact that having a loving father is truly a gift.  More and more are without father’s on this earth.  Ever wonder why the earth is growing more and more evil?  There is a tremendous shortage of loving daddies out there.

This picture brings out the emotion of gratitude within me as well as my grief.  Gratitude for an amazing father and for the time I did have with him on earth.  Also a deeper gratitude for what God did for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross so that we have the opportunity to no longer be separated from our loving Heavenly Father, God, by our sins.  You see no matter what we are dealt in this life, an absentee dad, an abusive dad, or a good dad we all actually have a loving Father.  God longs for our love and He is always waiting with open arms.  He gave us freewill because He wants us to long for Him as well.   To have a relationship means both parties desire to have that closeness and love.  God sent Jesus to bridge the gap that our sin causes so that we can curl up into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father, God.  It is moments of pain like missing my earthly father so much that I feel the presence of God so deeply.  He gives me eternal perspective and fills my heart with such joy, peace, love, and compassion for this world I live in.  All attributes that don’t flow from me they are only attributes that come from a perfect, Holy, almighty, all-powerful, creator, God.

I am also reminded that for the follower of Jesus death is not the end.  It is the beginning of true life.  I can say with BOLD confidence that I know for sure my father is in heaven.  I can say with BOLD confidence that I know I will one day be there too and see my dad again.  Oh how amazing that day will be to get to thank Jesus face to face for giving LIFE!!!!

Don’t forget the Diet Coke

The way God stirs a person’s heart for a ministry and starts to lay the foundation for this work is utterly amazing. Some of the greatest ministries have come through hardship, pain, and loss. So many foundations are started from pain of the loss of a loved one. Awareness crusades against drunk driving and drugs. Many safety rules, regulations, and safer products have come from those who have lost someone tragically pushing to prevent others from sharing their same grief. It seems as though at this point in time God is leading me to minister to those who are grieving out of my very own grief. Loss of someone you love through death is not necessarily the only cause to grieve. A break in a relationship of any kind will stir grief. Many times there is grief for the loss of health long before a person takes their final breath. Teenage girls and boys go through the stages of grief especially with the first break ups as they start to date and experience young love. Any changes in life can bring about a certain level of grief as the old patterns and familiarity pass away. Grief knows no social, economic, cultural, religious, language, or ethnic barriers. The basic human needs and emotions are the same for all of us.

I was reminded today of the sting that grief brings shopping at the grocery store for a family get together. A bad habit, but my father loved to drink caffeine free Diet Coke. This was a habit I had harassed him to change for a long time. With family parties I still would make sure I bought his favorite soda to drink. At the store I walked past Coke products and the thought “Oh I need to get dad his caffeine free Diet Coke!” fleeted through my mind. As I walked up to the bottles of Coke products my heart sank as I realized that there was no need. Memories of him had been flooding my mind more today than usual. I had not consciously thought of the fact that it was four months ago today that he died, but apparently my subconscious was very aware.

The fact that we all experience grief reminds me that even people that are hard to love may be going through an incredible silent pain. The fact that we all grieve reminds me to have more patience and compassion. The fact that we all grieve reminds me to smile and encourage others more. There are no levels to the experience of loss and each person will experience it in their own way. It is not fair for us to ever think that someone else has a “piece of cake” life because none of us are immune to loss.
As I mentioned in the beginning that some of the greatest ministries of God’s love have come from loss. The greatest ministry being that of His own Son Jesus. Jesus came to this earth fully God and yet fully human. He lived a sinless life. He took the payment of all of our sins on the cross. He grieved in His walk on this earth, he demonstrated tremendous grief as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His greatest grief was at the point on the cross where all the sins of all of mankind were laid upon Him suffering complete separation from God the Father at this point in time. His pain and grief led to His resurrection three days later which leads to the most beautiful promise of love, hope, and redemption fathomable. God’s greatest gift is the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Oh yes we will suffer pain, loss, and grief, but for those who put their faith in Jesus there is indescribable beauty waiting on the other side!!!!!!
1Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit”

1John 3:5 “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Matthew 26-39 “And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Matthew 27:46 “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).”

What Would Your Fifty to One Hundred Pictures Be?

dad in mickey ears

When my father died this spring it was a completely unexpected death. One of the first things we needed to do when making arrangements for his funeral was to gather pictures. The funeral director we worked with has a picture video made up for the family of the deceased that plays during the visitation time of the funeral. He asked us to bring in 50 to 100 pictures with the maximum up to around 150. Immediately my mother, sister, and I started thinking of significant events and pictures that would most represent the life of my father. It was hard to narrow it down. His life illuminated joy in so many ways. Most funerals I have attended there are picture boards, albums, and/or a video to view to provide a small glimpse of the life we have gathered to mourn the loss of. The pictures often provide healing as they bring remembrance of the blessing this person’s life has been to us. Pictures allow the mourning to turn to celebration and reflection. Many times the pictures will bring a smile or laughter as the memories of the loved one come alive.

As I think of my father, other family members, friends, and church family who have gone on home to Jesus there are pictures that flash into my own memory. Not physical pictures, but the image of their smile, the sound of their laugh, the sound of their voice, significant acts of kindness given to a young girl, and kindnesses shared even into my adulthood. So many loving saints that have formed me into the person I am today.
The memories flooding my mind of loved ones who have passed have gotten me to thinking about these pictures. What pictures will I leave for my family? What joys and moments are significant enough to them to make up the picture board or video? What mental images will flood their minds when remembering my life?

Will the pictures of our lives be of joy, kindness, love, understanding, forgiveness, selflessness, faithfulness, peace, gentleness, self-control, and goodness? Or when others think of our life on earth will there be the remembrance of selfishness, hatred, bitterness, and anger? There are people who have gone on that the latter is what I remember of their life. To remember someone in this manner brings a tremendous feeling of sadness for a life wasted. Thankfully there are very few individuals that I have to remember this way.

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

There is no better way for a life to be pictured than God’s way!! This is what I want my 50-100 pictures to represent. What are your 50-100 pictures?