“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, o death, is your victory?
Where, o death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55a)
“I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6)
I have been thinking about death lately. Two members of our parish have died in recent days. Rose was 92. She and her husband Clair shared 68 years of marriage before his death two years ago. Rose was blessed by being cared for and watched over by family during the final stages of her life. She was gracious, kind and so classy right up to the end. During the last week or so of her life, she moved in and out of responsiveness. Mostly I prayed with her, read Scriptures and spoke words of faith and assurance into her ear as she lay in bed. On my second-last visit, she did open her eyes and registered that I was there. She said, “Thank you” to me as I was leaving. The last words I heard her say. I pray that I, too, may know and be immersed in gratitude as I come to the end of my journey. Her funeral was beautiful. Her children witnessed to the beauty of her life, marriage to Clair, the way she exercised the sacred vocation of being a Mom, and the power of her simple, accepting, all-embracing love.
Beth had lived courageously with cancer for four years before her death on the fifth of October. During those four years, she experienced a multitude of treatments to try and stop the spread of the cancerous cells in her body. While being treated, she continued to spend time and enjoy life with Jim, her husband of 41 years. She rode her horses, delighted in God’s creation, prayed, and served as, among other things, President of the Elmbrook Humane Society. Through it all she lived a life of faithfulness to her God, spending time in prayer and reflection, occasionally asking me for a Scripture verse or share with me what was happening in her body, mind and heart. Finally on September 22, after a very recently approved experimental drug was not effective, Beth decided to stop aggressive treatment. She decided, rather, to go home, and to focus on being comfortable and living the rest of her life as fully as possible. Jim agreed with this decision and the focus became one of letting go, trusting, and believing. Hospice care-takers arrived at the house to keep vigil with Beth and to provide caring support to her and Jim. Beth was helped with care and medicine to be as comfortable as possible. She died peacefully in her house after days of visits from dear friends, much prayer, and the constant loving presence of Jim.
May Rose and Beth rest in peace. Like them, may we come to see and maybe even embrace death as part of our life journey. So much in contemporary culture seems to be about staving off old age, disease, or sickness. These, too, are part of life and God can be found in the midst of these experiences, sometimes in powerful and transforming ways.
Beth and Rose – rest always in the peace of Christ. Where Lazarus is poor no longer and where angels and saints praise the living God, may our Savior meet you , welcome you as one of His flock and welcome you to the heavenly Jerusalem. Let light perpetual shine upon them…