Wednesday, June 03, 2015

When the End Comes

On Monday we made a two hour drive to the Perth area to have a half hour visit with a loved one, then drove back again. It was more than worth the trip despite the brevity of our time together. Ruth's beloved Sandy, her teen best friend who became her step-sister, is dying of cancer. I too have known Sandy for nearly 45 years, so we both count her as a life-time friend.

I have shared some of Sandy's journey through her illness on a couple of occasions in this blog, as well as seeking the Bridge St. congregation's prayers on her behalf. We are glad that she has outlived the rather blunt prediction of an oncologist last year that she wouldn't make it to Christmas, but it is clear that the end is at hand.

Her attentive husband was surprised that she was able to stay focussed for even the brief time we had with her. She was interested in our lives, and it was an actual conversation that included tears and laughter. But she can no longer leave her bed, she hasn't been able to eat for some time now, and even ingesting liquids is a challenge. She is weary of the fight, and ready for it to come to an end, as much as she still wants to live and cherishes her loved ones.

It may be that a change in medication will settle her stomach and give her more precious time. But that would really only prolong the inevitable, and we all agree that it would be cruel to hold on to her when she has suffered so much, and without complaint or self-pity.

At one point she admitted that the pain and the struggle have rattled her faith and left her questioning the life to come "even though I know I shouldn't," as she put it. I suggested that in the precious time left to her she can move beyond what anyone tells her she should or shouldn't do, or think, or believe. If she has doubts or fears, they need to be expressed, and those who really care about her should receive them and support her in the uncertainty.

At the end of our visit we prayed, holding hands. I began but at one point I faltered because of my emotion. Ruth graciously, beautifully continued. After we said "amen" Sandy told us that the darkness lifted as we prayed, even though we didn't make bold claims about healing or heaven. Of course I do have a resurrection hope for the life to come, and that we will enter the fullness of God's light. It was enough though to love each other in the moment and commend her to God's care.

Some of you have been through this. Your thoughts or comments?


Judy McKnight said...

The peace of relief from suffering and pain is so blessed... that in itself was a gracious gift when my sister passed away - the end of life can be very stressful and difficult, and our faith can be badly shaken... your loving gift of presence, and her husband's, is probably the best proof of God's love Sandy could have. We really do have to be ready to be God's hands and feet, if we can do this task, if we are faithful to Christ's calling.

David Mundy said...

Thank you for these thoughtful observations Judy.