Thursday, January 29, 2004

February is the coldest month

My best friend M lost her mother to death Monday evening. It had been a month-long struggle for this delightful woman who drank too much and smoked too much and lost her health because of it, but never her zest for life. Seeing her on a respirator day after day, her body subjected to procedure after procedure, gradually losing hope for her, was the worst part for her family -- until she was gone. Gone too soon. She should have had more healthy years ahead of her.

Now the family is in the shocky, robotic stage of handling the funeral arrangements and all the practical, practical details that allow them to focus on things (anything) other than their grief.

I've been around death by virtue of being involved in the healing ministry. That doesn't stop it from hitting me in the stomach when it's someone I know and care about, like M's mother, and it calls up memories of all those other griefs stored in my mind.

Death is a cold monster.

And part of coping with death is facing my own mortality. There's that little core in me that can't believe that I'll ever die, but that core gets jarred out of place at times like this.

It's not death itself -- being dead -- that seems so cruel. I have confidence in life eternal, whether it's the full-body resurrection of Old Testament or in spirit only. This is where we find our complete healing. But the process of dying can be nightmarish. Cruel.

I was young and totally unprepared as I watched my father die. I saw him lose his mobility, his continence and his lucidity, all replaced with pain and indignity. He died in February in bitterly cold weather in the mountains of Virginia. Even now, so many years later in Florida, February is a chill, gray month for me.

I know that Dad is all right now, as is M's mother. I trust in that provision.

But what about the sufferings of a disease-wracked body? This is true evil. The sight our loved one suffering exacerbates our grief and makes us worry for ourselves. Where is God's provision in this?

I've prayed for those who were in a comatose or delirious condition as they approached death. I feel the spirit within us remains awake and aware, despite the comatose state of the body. Someone whose spirit is in touch with the Holy Spirit draws on the comfort, strength and confidence He brings. A true gift from God.

I believe God ministers to us in our extremis in ways that are unseen by the human eye. It's a matter of faith and of what I've observed.

The comatose condition itself is also a gift, ameliorating the worst suffering death inflicts on us as it ravages our bodies, as are medicines and painkillers. God's provision is there, too.

God's mercy searches out every path to help us through this very short time of transition -- as it does at all times. Does this make sense? He heals. His presence brings healing into even the most painful memories and gives us confidence for the future.

To trust in God is to trust Him with everything -- even dying. He lifts us from it as on eagle's wings.

His grace is sufficient.

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