When people ask me what I do, I usually reply that I do pediatric home care and hospice. And then I wait for the comment, “That must be really hard….”
Its probably because death is hard. And awkward. And in some ways completely incomprehensible to alive people.
I don’t understand alot about death myself. What I do understand, though, is that walking with people through death and dying is a gift. Not the kind you open on Christmas morning and can’t wait to show everyone. Instead, it is a process of grief, loss, acceptance–and for me, an ongoing lesson in how to trust in a sovereign Savior and God. Let me try to explain–
Sometimes death is gentle, calm and peaceful. Sometime’s it’s not.
But no matter what the circumstances surrounding it are, death is not pretty. It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to remind us of the effect of sin on creation and on our bodies. It is intended to remind us that life is temporary–and eternity is forever. I truly believe this with all that is in me.
And yet, the Lord in His common goodness and grace blesses humanity with moments of peace and transparency even in the grief and loss and horrifying reality of the situations in and surrounding death.
And, in the goodness of the Lord, these are gifts to be found–even in those moments.
I feel so blessed to be able to have been there with one family, to share the pure and transparent moment of grief as we knelt on the hallway floor and cried. I am so grateful that I am able to rejoice with parents for each day they share with their terminally ill children, then be able to at least try to offer some kind of comfort when they lose their child. And I would never, ever trade the moments I shared with one young patient as we sang along to Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and Nat King Cole’s “What a Wonderful World” while I arranged her pillows, gave her nutrition through an IV, and pushed endless medications into her body. Nor (oddly enough) would I trade the moments, weeks later, when I watched and prayed for her as her heart rate flickered on the screen and finally was still–such a sobering reminder of the sovereignty of God, who knew exactly at what moment her heart would stop.
Death looks us all in the face, whether that’s in the context of a career, as it is for me, or in the context of being the one to lose a family member or friend. And yet, the paradox is that there are gifts even in these horrible moments–when are we ever so transparent as we are in the moment of grief? When are we reminded better of the fragility of life? When is there a better time to pray for peace and salvation for those in mourning?
But the greatest gift to be found amid death is Christ. Because of Him, we have the gift of hope. In the face of the death that surrounds us all, we can rejoice in each breath that God grants to us, eagerly await the day when death will have no sting…and dance.
May He grant us grace to find the gift in the grief, the calm in the confusion, and the courage to give hope to the hopeless.