Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Ready to Go, But. . .- Austin

There is an intriguing tension between faith in God, with its comfort and assurance in the face of tragedy or death, and the love of life. I believe we have a God-given passion to draw one more breath.

I sat at a bedside just recently. The goodbyes had been said. Tears had spilled. She had lived a long, full life, though she did not seem 'old.' Her body had battled an invasion, swift and brutal. A blood-clot had led to tissue death and massive infection. She had suffered intense pain and debiliting exhaustion. In the small hours of the morning as her breathing slowed, I had every reason to think her body was simply shutting down, surrendering in a fight it could not win.

I loved this woman, mother of my bride, though I had rarely spoken that love. More than once tears filled my eyes as I sat beside her. I prayed, sometimes a selfish prayer. "Restore her, for me, for the rest of the family." Sometimes less selfish. "Let her lungs work fully. Don't make her spend hours or days dying. Please God, let her live fully whatever hours she has left." Mostly I sat with an inner quiet and a strange sense of measureless privilege. Why should I have the right to be here, at this time?

She loved God. Death did not terrify. She, too, had said her goodbyes. Yet her body fought for life. It would not give in.

I struggle with the theology of Dylan Thomas' poem: "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." It doesn't sit will with my belief that as believers we have every reason to face death with confidence. Yet I am also convinced there is much truth in the poem's message. We're not meant to just give up and die. The burning desire to draw one more breath is -- I am fully convinced -- a God-given passion.

Intensive Care facilities are noisy places, with hums and clicks and hisses, and with highly trained medical staff only a few paces away. Yet as I sat beside her from 3:00 to 4:30 a.m., there was a sense of quiet in that room, of peace, and of privilege. I have no adequate language.

I thought I was there for a home-going, and I ached deeply even as I silently celebrated. I was mistaken, and for that I'm still celebrating -- though not quite so silently. Looking back, I'm convinced I was present for her healing. By morning she was stronger than she had been for weeks. And by 4:00 p.m. they had moved her out of Intensive Care.

A few nights later my wife and I read the passage where Jesus told His Disciples, "I go to prepare a place for you." I caught myself wondering if we did Mom any favours by praying for her healing. We were greatly blessed that she made it through the night. We felt the intense thrill of seeing her moved out of Intensive Care, then gaing strength and finally returning home. But she would have been celebrating in a new home, with a body free of pain and exhaustion.

I haven't got it all sorted out in my mind. I'm not convinced we are supposed to simply give up and "go gently into that good night." But I'm also not at all convinced we have any cause to "rage, rage against the dying of the light." God's promises are trustworthy even in the darkest hours, so somewhere, there is a balance, though I suspect each of us have to find it for ourselves.

Brian Austin, author of Munnin's Keep 


Peter Black said...

Brian, thank you for sharing your feelings and ruminations on this very personal experience. It's surely appropriate that others of us rejoice with you on "Mom's" amazing recovery.
You bring balance to the dual aspects of Thomas' statement, from the perspective of the Christian believer's eternal hope and the way the Creator has designed our physical responses for temporal survival. Well done.

Mary Haskett said...

Brian, how well you express your thoughts and feelings. I have a friend who is surviving against all odds. Cancer is everywhere, yet she drives, laughs, comes to my home for monthly prayer meetings and is full of joy. It is her will to live, her indomitable spirit, and her constant focus on Jesus that keeps her going. She is not ready to go "gently into that good night."

Popular Posts