GOD GIVES DYING PEOPLE SOMETHING INVISIBLE. Strange to say, I’ve seen it.
Not in any mystical sense. No hovering spirits or coins sliding along a tabletop.
I’ve seen it the way we see the wind. Leaves moving. A rush of air that blows past.
I saw it years ago, as I watched Dad die slowly of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He had no fear of dying. He was afraid of pain. But we fixed that. He died at peace with his family and his God.
I got a message this week from a friend of long ago. Still a friend, but we’ve been 800 miles apart for the past half-century.
A dying buddy says goodbye
He gave me permission to share part of his message.
I haven’t kept you up on the latest, buddy, but I have entered that sacred place known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It sure would be a dark and scary place if not for the rod and the staff comforting me every step of the way.
I was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer (Feb) and since that time it has metastasized…now Stage IV. It is incurable.
Not sure how much time is left, but I will enter into home hospice when I talk to my doc on the 14th and let her know that I will be stopping treatment. We tried targeted therapy. Epic fail. Then immunotherapy for 3 treatments. Failed as well.
…I have less than 6 months (2 months ago)…Sometimes you just know.
Know this, my dear friend, that my joy is unspeakable and even I don’t understand the incredible peace I am blessed with. I think I finally get why it’s called the peace that surpasses all understanding. Even I can’t fully comprehend it as the recipient of such mercy. I am beyond ready for a homecoming as it has been a long battle with 9 cancers in just the past 4 years!
Be well my friend. I just thought you’d like to know. Tell your family hi and that “all is well”…Love you, brother.
What do you say to a dying friend?
I write books for a living, and I’m paraphrasing the Casual English Bible. Yet sometimes I feel that a single email or social media message could be more important than everything else I write.
I feel that way when needy strangers tell me their true story, and all I have to give them are words. That’s when I ask God to let me, for a short moment, become a prophet and deliver his message.
I never know if God does that. Whether the words come from him or me, they come from a broken heart.
“Weren’t we kids just yesterday? This has been a fast ride, with joy and terror and depression at times.
Our bodies are giving way to the Life of the Spirit that these bodies can’t contain any longer. We’re breaking loose and leaving the wrinkled skin in a pile for loved ones to lament over…
I’m glad you feel at peace. I think I understand. Twice I’ve been in a dangerous place, and I felt at peace as I lay helpless while others cared for me.
One was outside. And all I could focus on was how beautifully blue the sky was.
…You’ll be on my mind as you travel on the difficult path through the narrow gate to God. The road might be bumpy, so buckle up. Medication should absorb some of the shock of the bumps.
If you can, surround yourself with people who can review your life in shared memories. That’ll be taking the scenic route. There’s joy in the memories, with some sadness, I guess. But more joy.
It has been my pleasure to have known you and to have loved you as a brother—that handsome, skinny young man…. Singer. Preacher. Smile-maker.”
I can’t help but think of Bible verses from the paraphrase I’ve been working on. So I told him about the way I felt compelled to paraphrase one of the Beatitudes of Jesus, because the verse has helped me deal with the sudden death of my younger brother a few weeks ago. Heart attack.
“If you’ve loved someone enough to mourn them when they’re gone, God has blessed you. Now he’ll comfort you.” Matthew 5:4
I ended the message with this:
“I should say goodbye, my friend.
But instead, let me say that I’ll meet you in the morning over there. When the Spirit wants you to go, get your spirit butt moving. Heaven can’t wait.
You never really belonged here anyway. You’ve felt out of place all along. That’s what Jesus said of his followers, “They don’t belong here in this world. I don’t, either” (John 17:16).
More and more, home is feeling like Somewhere Else. I’ll catch up with you back home in the morning.”
Sorry if that sounds like aging Boomer Christian talk. But sometimes we want to remember the words we sang in church back in the days when we knew the words of the song.
“How old are you, grandpa?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in a hurry to leave.
Four-year-old grandson number one asked me how old I was this week, since I had a birthday on Monday. When I told him, he asked if I was going to go away and not come back.
That moment became the perfect illustration of why I want to stay. Four grandchildren. Five in October. Wonderful wife, kids and their spouses.
My dying friend has some of those reasons to stay, too. Which is why he may linger as long as he can.
I gave my grandson the perfect answer, I think.
“I want to be here to see you get married.”
He dropped the subject right away.
When I end a message or wrap up a video, I generally say, “Peace to you.”
That’s not a leftover phrase from Kent State University in the 70s.
It’s a message Jesus passed along.
The peace he offered and the peace I wish for my friend includes all the good and healthy stuff of life on God’s earth.
But it’s peace for the journey, too. And peace for those we’ll all, one day, have to leave behind.
Peace to you.