Friday, August 12, 2011
How Does One Deal With Death? With Life? – den Boer
At 74, Marty’s dad appeared to be an active, healthy man with nothing so seriously wrong with him that a hearing aid couldn’t fix. We assumed he would be around at least another twenty years: feeding his steers, planting his garden, driving sick old-people to doctor’s appointments, writing letters to the editor, hooking rugs, playing with his grandchildren, and doing the 800 other things that kept him busy from morning until nightfall.
Then suddenly this past summer he complained about a backache. Even with rest the backache persisted. There were blood tests which led to more tests which pinpointed the problem: cancer of the pancreas with lesions on the liver.
He spent his last two weeks on earth tidying up his financial affairs (not that they were ever messy), arranging funeral details, and saying good-bye to family, friends and neighbours. He died at home one evening shortly after family devotions at his bedside. That was the day he lost his ability to swallow. He died at peace with the full assurance that soon he would have a new body. Days earlier he had mentioned, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was looking forward to having his hearing restored.
At the funeral there was an underlying joy mingled with the sorrow of missing a loved one. We knew he was in heaven with Jesus. As the minister put it, “He’s gone ahead.” And as our twelve-year-old son said, “I can look forward to seeing Opa in about 80 years.”
After the funeral, back at the homestead while eating salads and casseroles prepared by loving members of the church, I sat beside Carol, a non-Christian friend of Marty’s missionary sister. “Must be quite a shock to your kids to suddenly lose their grandfather,” she commented.
I looked at her, briefly wondering if I should talk to her honestly, as if she were a Christian, as if she would understand. I decided to go ahead.
“Actually, they’re pretty good with it,” I said, picturing my five children. “There’s been tears and they’ll miss him, but you know, he said good-bye to each one of them and told them to live for the Lord. They’ll always remember that. That’s special…and,” I added, “they know he’s in heaven.”
She looked at me curiously, “Is everyone in the family so strongly religious?”
That left me tongue-tied. Obviously she saw all the faith and assurance stuff as a made-up, organized set of beliefs. I had wanted to give her the truth, serve it to her like a piece of cake, but alas, I didn’t even know how to cut into the cake. As Christians we know death is a step along the road into eternity, but that was only so much mumbo-jumbo to Carol.
Our conversation left me with a couple of questions. How does someone, who thinks this life is everything, deal with death? How does that person deal with life? Or, if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, but suspects there could possibly be something beyond the reaches of this life, how does he or she dare approach death?
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4–5)
As I re-examine my conversation with Carol and reconsider my questions about life and death, I realize the Holy Spirit knows all the answers. To be an effective witness, I need God’s power.
This is an excerpt from Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progress by Marian den Boer.
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