(From my wife Kathy.)
These words . . .
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”…
I have had a blessed life, but there have been a few times when my breath was taken away. Not the “catch in your throat” kind of feeling like at the birth of my sons, but the “knock the wind out of you” feeling. The death of my father. Kurt’s (at age 48) surgeon telling me he needed open heart surgery as soon as possible. Walking into the ICU after our nine month old grandson had major head surgery.
Now these words are burned in my mind and added to that list. At a time when my mother was living inside of a nightmare the doctor said to me: “Your mom is in anguish. You can have us try to help her to have peace, but her swallowing will be affected. Or, you can have us help her with the use of her muscles, but she’ll continue living with the hallucinations and emotional torment. You can have one or the other. You can’t have both.”
These words were spoken to me on our front porch by mom’s doctor. They were words that overwhelmed me. I was crushed, completely crushed. No air in my lungs at all. In that moment, all I could muster was a whisper: “But I want both.” The doctor told me to take a few hours to talk with my family and to think about it.
In the early morning a few weeks previous I woke to hear mom crying. I went in to see what was wrong. At that time mom was having difficulty expressing what she needed but I could see she was in distress. So after multiple questions from me, and no clear answers to any of them, I said, “You’re okay mom. Everything is fine.”
Mom responded clear as a bell: “No It’s not. I’m dying Kathy. You know that.”
She wasn’t angry, or upset, but she said it more like she was stating a fact. My feeble words, “you’re okay,” didn’t have the soothing effect I thought they should. And you know what? She was correct. She was not okay. She was in fact having a very difficult time and I minimized her distress in that moment with those words. I noticed the doctor on the porch wisely didn’t use the words, “I understand,” or “I know,” or “It will be okay.” How could she possibly understand? Those words would have been like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.
After a phone call to my oldest brother to explain the situation, he said he would call me back after speaking to my other three brothers. And he did later that night. When he called me back the words he spoke, they freed my chest to breathe again. He said, “Kathy, this is not your decision to make. This is our decision to make. And we all choose to follow the doctor’s recommendation to stop the medication.”
Those words, spoken firmly, spoken with authority, lifted a huge weight off my shoulders because my brother understood. He knew what the words spoken by the doctor meant. And what I now realize is that by my brother speaking his words, making those difficult phone calls to my other three brothers, my oldest brother came along side of me to help me carry the burden. And yes, while it is mom’s race to the finish line, we’re each running our own races too, and for now they’re intertwined with hers. We can carry her baton for a bit. We can help her physical needs. And we can and should speak words, words of comfort and compassion.
Words do have power. Words can define you in a given moment. God knows I have dropped the ball often enough with my words. Yet I have hope because of the words, “You’re Forgiven.”
While I was writing this, my beautiful Mom died. I was sitting at her bedside, holding her hand. My laptop was still next to the table, where I had placed it only a couple of days before. Kurt had just walked out to get our son per my request.
I was alone with mom.
“It’s okay Mom. We will be fine. Your kids are going to be fine. You did such a good job, I’m so proud to be your daughter. Dad is there waiting for you. Can you hear him singing so loud? So beautiful? It’s okay Mom.” I’m so thankful God gave me those words to say. A few moments later I met Kurt in the hallway to tell him she was gone.
Words. So powerful. So freeing. And I’m so thankful for God’s words. Because He says,
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new”. Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”
“. . . for these words are faithful and true.”
“These words” are faithful and true. So true in fact, God Himself says to John, write this down. I’m going on record. No mistaking, no more guessing what Heaven is. Heaven is being with God. You will be with Me. I will comfort you. I personally will wipe away your tears. God states it. Almost as if He’s saying, “I’m speaking in small words so you understand what I am saying.” (To coin a phrase my oldest brother just used with me.) It’s true what C.S. Lewis said, “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
This gives me hope. This declares where my precious mom and my dad are. This declares the future of Kurt, and our kids, and my future too. These words are truly a balm to my soul.
I hope they are for you as well.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” –Jesus Christ