Grief Observed (III)

D went home to his Father around 6:30 this evening. I found this out when I walked into Jon’s office and he was notifying the proper people. Bill was with the family and that’s pretty much all I know (and probably all I’m supposed to know though I’ll probably find out more from Jon later).

Let us pray:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, D. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of your saints in light. Amen

Lord Jesus Christ, through water and the Spirit D has been brought into your family; receive him and present him to God Most High. Amen.

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I’m strangely relieved, mostly because I knew that it was only a matter of time and I knew that when D passed, he would be with his Father. My stomach has unclenched and I have a sense of peace. I still feel pain, but not for D — instead, for his family members who are left here because I know their decision was painful. As I said in (II), I’ve sat with them, hugged them, prayed with them, talked with them… I’m still praying for F and G individually and shall do so until after the funeral.

And yes, I’m looking forward to the funeral and I know it sounds strange. Funerals and burials are closure points for me and I know from experience that I need that closure to move on in a healthy way emotionally. It provides a chance to say good-bye and Christian funerals also feature the texts that explain the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, especially John 14:1-4 and John 11:25-27. The hymns are usually the ones about faith and hope and the service itself is supposed to be a reminder of where our faith should lie with regard to our life.

Grief Observed (II)

The events of the last few days have reminded me of some words from Isaiah:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:8-11)

In other words, our will is not automatically that of the Lord and we need to be cogniscent of that. For the last week I had been praying for D to survive and recover and my prayers shifted when I discerned that God’s will was not that he survive. The decision is probably going to be made today about taking the breathing tube out and decreasing the meds keeping him alive. Those are artificial things, which means that he’s not really himself and God’s will seems to be that he lay down his sword and rest instead of keeping up the fight.

I slept fitfully last night and the tears I was fighting back yesterday finally flowed this morning during my blog-reading and prayer time. (My devotions are situated in the middle of my blogroll so that they are part of my wake-up ritual.) I was listening to “There Is Love” by Paul Stookey and I can’t think of a better place than in my study with a soft and furry stressball next to me to pet. I also got a little weepy when Jon and I went out to run errands today. I’ve sat with D’s family, held their hands, hugged them (which I think shocked G when I asked him if I could hug him), prayed with them,… I can’t help but be emotionally involved. We gave the news to the head of the Licking County Center for the Visually Impaired today (as D and F are his volunteers) and it was brutal. We prayed with him and we hugged. (It shocks me at how anti-hug Ohio is. *EVERYONE* hugs in California.) I’m gonna be OK once D let’s go and goes home to be with his Father; but the prolonging is tough.

I realized today that there *IS* a reason why I’ve been unemployed for so long — it frees me up to do the Lord’s work. I would have felt bad about not being able to be there for Jon (not to mention possibly being stranded at work) if I had been working during this time. It has also allowed me to get to know D’s family who are really cool.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, help me stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn…

Grief Observed (I)

Yesterday as Jon and I were driving around Cols visiting members in the hospital, we realized that we weren’t going to be able to visit D. He had been doing well on Friday and so we headed back to Newark for VBS, planning to visit him today.

Well… when we got there, we found that he had taken a serious turn for the worse. His heart had stopped on Friday night and there was extensive brain damage from a lack of oxygen. Jon and I were the ones sitting with the family when a no-code order (basically, if D’s heart stops, we say “yes Lord” and don’t try to resuscitate him) was issued by the doctor with the family’s blessing. In other words, we were needed TODAY. We ended up hanging out at the hospital for 7 hours and sitting with the family in ICU for much of it. When I wasn’t in the ICU, I was watching the grandkids so G and his wife could sit vigil with F in the ICU.

I seriously have no idea how I have gotten through this other than prayer, blogging, and singing along with my hymn CD’s when I get home. I am the world’s biggest sap and yet I’ve managed to stay stoic. I prayed constantly for D, for his wife F, and for their son G today when I was sitting in ICU. I got some quiet time in this morning which helped tremendously and I made sure to eat three meals, albeit small ones so that I wasn’t bitchy and hypoglycemic like I was yesterday.

I’m tired, headachy, dehydrated (from driving in the 90F heat), and grieving. It’s strange because I don’t recall having ever said more than 5 words to D in the 11 months we’ve been here; but he is part of the church family at Jon’s internship site and as the khouria and vicarette, it’s my job to take care of the members of the family and love them. D and his family are members of the church, so it’s part of my vicarette duties to take care of them in any way I can. I think once D goes home to his Heavenly Father, there can be a funeral and there can be closure for me. I just wish it was that simple for his family and my heart and prayers are going out to them right now. He was OK 10 days ago and now, he’s almost braindead. The surgeon even said that the fact that D has survived so long with everything is a miracle. I can’t even begin to imagine how F, his wife of 53 years, or G, their son, are feeling right now and I probably will never understand it fully.

Right now, my prayer is that D lets go and that his family can cope with his death. He is really at the point where it’s just the meds and machines keeping him alive and prolonging his life is really just for the family, and not for his benefit. I know that it’s completely not what I’ve been praying for in the last week, but it’s what is needed. Not my will Lord; but Thine be done.

Pray for all of us.

Precious Lord, take my hand…

Reflections on This Past Week: The Impact on My Faith

How my faith has changed in the last week:

  • Prayer heals. I think that D survived largely because of the prayers of everyone in the conference room when the surgeon was consulting with us. I’ve been keeping him and his family in my prayers since and all has been going fairly well. On Friday, I found out that he was upgraded from a 20% chance of surviving to more than an 80% chance. That’s definitely an improvement in odds.
  • As Christians, we know that death is our homecoming to Heaven. We know that putting our trust in Christ gives us the promise of eternal life. I saw some tears shed during Mary’s funeral, but it was *NOTHING* compared to the tears shed at non-Christian funerals I’ve attended. I have been hugged more in the last week than in the last 10 months — people have needed comfroting but it’s less intense than it could have easily been. After all, St. Paul writes:

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-35, 37-39)

  • Ministering to someone does not mean you know the exact words to say. If the Lord wants you to talk to someone, He will *give* you the words and frequently it’s what you *NOT* say that helps. Holding someone’s hand is just as meaningful as saying “it will be OK” and keeps you from looking like a fool when it is *NOT* OK. A hug can say more than words ever could. Praying confides that you are not doing this alone.
  • I really need to pray when I feel the urge to do so. Prayer has kept me sane this week. I’ve looked forward to getting to Sacred Space on my blogroll or reading the Our Daily Bread devotion for the day. My prayer time this week has kept me sane and I’m hoping that I can build better habits right now for my future. The urgings to prayer this week have also probably kept others sane as I know that the Lord works through our prayers for others.
  • I’ve figured out how to succinctly state the basis of my call to ordained ministry. Simply put, I love to tell the story. God’s promises are still amazing to me 8 years after the night I was led to faith in Jesus Christ and there is a hunger within me to tell people about them and to help people to work with them in their lives in all circumstances.
  • My deep appreciation for the words of the traditional hymns has increased. The hymns written a hundred or more years ago might not be as catchy or upbeat as today’s Vineyard music but many of them have much better lyrics and a better/more singable tune. I’ve extolled the virtues of “Abide With Me” enough in my journal this week; but I sing that nightly and hymns like “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” beat out “The Lord Is My Light” any day. “Amazing Grace” still makes me cry.
  • Reflections on This Past Week: Words of Wisdom

    Chris commented yesterday that after several hard days and hard posts from [me], [he] was strangely relieved to just see a Friday Five on mundane stuff like hair. Believe me, those posts have been part of the reason I’ve survived this week. It’s been healing to be able to blog out my feelings on things and just write about things. The other way I’ve been surviving is singing along to my various hymn CD’s while working on my computer at home. “My Life Flows on in Endless Song” is doing more for me right now than “Shout to the Lord”. (I just wish that the arrangement of the former wasn’t instrumental so that I could have some words to post. Ah well… I’ll get it off of Cyberhymnal later.)

    Some wisdom from this week:

    “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ”
    -Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if i go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. you know the way to the place where I am going.”
    -John 14:1-4

    “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
    -John 3:16-17

    “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
    -Job 19:25-27

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
    -Proverbs 3:5-6

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
    -Matthew 6:33-34

    Saying Grace

    In small group tonight, we were talking about prayer and witnessing before diving into the Book of Revelation. One of the contexts given was saying grace in a public place like a restaurant and it reminded me of this…

    Since I embraced Christ at age 14, I’ve been fairly intentional about praying before I eat. I was subtle about it at first and got bolder as time went on. By the time I left for college at age 18, I was praying before meals regularly. I wasn’t obnoxious about it — I’d just bow my head for a few moments — but I was very conscious to do so. At first, this really puzzled the motley crew of non-Christian influences with whom I hung out in college and the joke became that I was “waiting for the Lactaid to kick in” if I was eating with Das Group. People knew to just hold off on conversating with me for however long my head was bowed and I didn’t make a huge deal out of it.

    I was really focused on being inconspicuous at first because I thought I was shoving my faith in peoples’ faces but everyone was really OK with it and some people actually told me during some of the deeper one-on-one conversations we had that they really thought that it was cool. Others would bow their heads with me if we were all going out to eat and my friend Amy actually asked if we could say grace when we ate together in our apartment during our senior year. Granted, it was a silent prayer but it was a time to give credit to the One who made it possible to have the food on our plates. I’ve gotten lax about my quiet times lately and even praying before I fall asleep (I tend to fall asleep *while* praying a lot of the time) but I’m still very vigilant about saying grace. This puzzles me because I’m doing the little prayers instead of the big ones; but by the same token, I’m also acknowledging my gratefulness to the Lord for what I have and that I would not have it without Him.

    Another thing that came of saying grace was that it taught my friends about how much my faith meant in my life. In November 1999, my life was in pieces (literally) and I came into the dining hall one morning in tears. I was eating alone and my friend Amy came and sat down with me and asked me what was wrong, which made me cry harder. She then said the most magical words I’ve ever heard, “Jen, do you want to pray about this?” The reason they were so magical was that Amy was a non-believer (at the time) and it was like “SHE UNDERSTANDS!!!” She offered her hand and I took it and we prayed silently for probably a good 10 minutes. I still get weepy thinking about it because I don’t know if Amy will ever understand how much it meant to me that she sat there and prayed with me. All I know is that she understood that prayer was important in my life at the time and she wanted to help me in a way that was meaningful to me. Other of my friends would ask me to pray with them (also non-believers at the time though some have come to Christ since our graduation) and though I’d be judicious in my wording, it was still an affirmation of my faith and in a way saying that they understood the power prayer could have. Saying grace was a way I could witness to people about my faith and it was an expression of my dependence on God for everything.

    I heard a lot about being intentional and praying VERY audibly in restaurants as a way of witnessing. (By “VERY audibly”, I’m talking a voice level 3-4 times above normal.) I think that instead of praying so loudly that others DEFINITELY hear us (cf. Luke 18:9-14), we should pray as we normally do and let people notice us. Believe me… they WILL and I’ve gotten comments on it even when I’ve prayed silently to myself at $tarbuck$ (literally waiting for the Lactaid to kick in). I remember the impact it made on me as a newly-minted Christian to see two people praying over their bear claws at $tarbuck$ and I think that it can have similar impacts on other people.

    My $0.02 for what it is worth.