The gift of a good death

For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.
— Psalm 48:14 (NKJV)

Four and a half years ago we received the news that my father-in-law was dying of esophageal cancer. We heard the news at our grandfather's funeral.

So, while grieving the loss of one well-loved man, we were simultaneously projecting ahead to the loss of another well-loved man. It was one of those moments when feelings get all mixed up with facts and everything sort of blurs together.

During the following five months — the final five months of his life — my father-in-law, a man who had struggled with depression for his entire adult life, fought the good fight — physically,
emotionally, spiritually.

He underwent every chemo and radiation process with more courage than I can imagine enduring, and there was never a complaint.

I marveled at how well he accepted, first, his terminal diagnosis, and, second, the grueling treatment plan that only promised to add a few brief months to his life.

For a man so given to long bouts of emotional despair, I feared the worst for him. But I was never more wrong.

Beyond explanation, he seemed to thrive during those precious last weeks and months on earth. I was able to spend considerable time with my father-in-law, driving him back and forth to radiation treatments, to doctor's appointments, or just to run errands.

Even now, I shake my head in amazement that this man whom I had known intimately for over 25 years could (and would) endure certain death with such poise and peace.

Rather than us comforting him, he comforted us.

There was such grace — the kind only God can supply — during those terrible hours of suffering. Every day he died a bit more, but the memory of these precious moments and conversations can still stop me in my tracks when something reminds me of how much I gained personally from our talks.

Somehow his patience with the horrifying painful process, and his courage to face death itself, was remarkable. So much so that I remember with far greater fondness how he died than how he lived.

In every way, he gave us a very good gift.

Lord, help me to remember that you have promised to be with me until my last day on earth and then you’ll walk me straight into your presence. Let this good ending keep me going when I want to give up. Amen.

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3 Responses to “The gift of a good death”

  1. wish

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  2. Michele

    Yes, he had a strong support system. In between our family and the pastor of his church who brought a lot of care and comfort to him, my father in law knew he was much loved and supported through this tough time. Thankfully, he was a man who shared his thought and feelings which made it easier on us to know how to love and serve him as his illness progressed.

  3. Grace

    Beautiful! Michele, Do you feel like your father-in-law’s church family was there for him and the caregivers during his illness? Did anybody particularly reach out to him spiritually to help him continue in his walk with God through the end of his life here?

    If you would prefer to email instead of commenting here that would be great too. Thanks

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