If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Death, Where Thy Sting?


I recently thought of Dan when I mentioned him to my class of nursing students. We’d been discussing patient care, especially of those who are in the process of dying.  I published this piece in my first book. The message is important enough to bring it forward once again.

 

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Martha said to Him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:24-26).

As soon as I walked into the hospital room, I knew my friend was dying. Six weeks earlier, Dan’s doctors diagnosed his colon cancer. Then they found a tumor in his left lung and suspicious spots on his liver.
           

“Hi Dan,” I choked back tears and tried not to notice his labored breathing or his yellowed, swollen skin.


“How are you feeling?”


He opened his sunken eyes and tried to smile.


“Tired,” he whispered. “Good to see you.”


It had been nearly five years since we’d last seen each other. My job change and move across country had ended our weekly sit-down-over-coffee chats. When we spoke on the phone nine months earlier in December, no one knew it would be his last earthly celebration of Christ’s birth.


I watched him struggle for air, and my mind drifted to his conversion story. He’d been raised an agnostic by agnostic, culturally Jewish parents. Educated in prestigious schools and trained as a clinical psychologist, Dan could have easily dismissed the emptiness gnawing at his heart as irrational foolishness. The idea that sin could be the root of his void was as distant to his humanistic worldview as light is from darkness.


But when the Holy Spirit revealed to him the eternal truth about sin, forgiveness, and salvation, Dan faced a choice: bow to God or continue hiding behind human philosophies.


He chose God and then devoted his life to the cornerstone of God’s truth – Jesus Christ.


Twenty-two years later, although cancer weakened his body, it couldn't weaken his faith. Everyone who walked into his room heard the same question, “Do you know my Jesus? Do you know my Savior?”


The next day when I visited again, I asked, “Dan, how does it feel to know you're dying?”


I wanted to know my friend's thoughts as he faced eternity. I'd learned from experience that a hospital room is one of those places where everything we hold dear slips to the bottom of our priority list: money, popularity, passions, careers. Like charred timbers after a house fire, a deathbed places so many things in clearer perspective. I thought Dan's answer might help me cope during that time when I also stare into eternity.


He raised his hand to the bed-rail and touched mine.


“From life to life.” He smiled. “I leave this one to enter the next with Jesus. I fought the good fight. I finished my course. I kept the faith.”


We buried Dan a few weeks later. A chilled November wind whipped across the southwest Missouri cemetery. Rust-orange leaves carpeted the frozen dirt at our feet, and as the eulogy drifted from the graveside, Dan’s final words to me filtered again into my memory, “Life to life. I fought the good fight. I finished the course. I have kept the faith.”


 For those who love Jesus, death is not the end. Rather it’s the beginning of a forever with the Savior. The Holy Spirit said it beautifully when He said it through the apostle Paul: “Oh, Death, where is your victory? Grave, where is your sting?”( I Corinthians 15). In Christ Jesus death and the grave were fatally crushed, and forever defeated, when the stone rolled away and Jesus walked from the tomb.


Oh, all praises be to our lord and our God!



 

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