Monday, December 9, 2013

{day 17) Is the suffering worth it?

Is the suffering worth it?

To fight for the chance to live
Even if that day is not given?

Is that suffering worth it?

Oh...the decisions to be made
The goodbyes to be said.

Surrender, fight, suffer
Our good, His glory
I don't claim to know how it works

Have mercy on us, O Lord


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I wrote these lines about the days that decisions needed to be made about my father-in-laws treatment in the hospital last fall while he was still in the ICU. When you are making the decisions, you don't know what the outcome will be, how much longer they will live or not live, or what their quality of life will be if they do live. What difficult days. The situation has opened a fresh look at suffering for me; here I have simply tipped the iceberg with questions of fighting, surrender, saying goodbye, and the value of suffering

I haven't delved much deeper because I don't have a satisfying answer to the question. I know a theological answer to the question but I also want to address the human, emotionally raw side. If one raises the theological side too soon for those still raw, it feels like salt in the wound. Where, sometimes, the exact same answer or thought can be a healing balm.

In the end, God did have mercy on us: we did not have to decide about life support or withholding at a treatment for my father-in-law. I am so thankful for that mercy. It is a severe mercy, though, but mercy none-the-less. And the David Crowder song that I posted here comes to mind and also the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken.

Death is not easy. We walk in its shadows but know that the sun does shine. There is laughter and hope and fun in the midst of these times, too. That, too, is a mercy: it is not all sadness.
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5:10-11
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This is part of the 31 Day series: 
The Clarence Chronicles: Lessons of Faith from the ICU
Click HERE to read Day 1, which links to all the posts in this series.

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{day 18} Walking in the shadow of death

Walking in the shadow of death.
We are definitely doing that now since my father-in-law died.
But it is so interesting because I have been wanting to write about a post about walking in the shadow of death since last fall when my father-in-law's health crisis began.

I didn't really know how to write about it. Because it didn't FEEL valid because he was ALIVE not dead so how could it be that we walked in the valley of the shadow of death? Or at least it didn't feel grateful to speak of walking in the valley when he was alive. But truly, we lingered many days in the In-Between looking at oxygen levels. Doctors telling us, 'This is no longer ethical." and "We didn't think we would get this far." It was the looming shadow of death then, now it is the shadow cast after death.

Now, that he is gone, I know that we experienced a miracle.

If you look at the pictures from last year when he was in the hospital to the days before he died, you can visibly see the miracle that we experienced. God gave life. God gave Clarence the determination and will to live. He gave each one of us with a part -- the part at the right time whether it was a doctor, a nurse,or  a sibling who was the one to make the call to intervene,  or to be pushy, or to ask that question about that procedure. God used many hands to bring about the miraculous

Today, a little over one month after the death of my father-in-law, it feels valid to say that we have been walking in the valley of the shadow of death. I picture big mountains that cast shadows.

Last year we lived in the cold, looming shadow of death before my father-in-law actually crossed the line of death. Often it was cold, looming, dark, unknown, and definitely unwanted. We had  reprieve. We experienced miracles. There were the long miracles. It is amazing to see where he came from to where he was just days before he died: Days of hope, progress, and sunshine as we celebrated his 80th birthday with a pirate cake with my 8 year-old son, right before he died.

I still feel somewhat in shock that he is gone. I have been in the throes of details -- planning funerals, helping my husband, and dealing with a rear-end fender bender. I have never known the solace of being busy in the midst of grief. It has not been my role previously. It feels quite like an ill-fitting garment.

I feel so unfocused. I really wanted to focus this post, this writing on the shadow of death. But in the darkness the pathway of grief seems so dark. It is hard to describe. Much of the pathway is borne alone, especially for my mother-in-law.

* * *
The shadow of death
Mountains high
Looming clouds
The pathway winds around to heights he cannot see
The pathway leads down
He went up
We linger down here in the shadows
Shadows
Cold, lonely
But we know that he is walking without his walker
Swallowing without trouble
Eating icecream and beef
Talking with no trouble of all
Worshipping his savior
And we linger here in the shadows
It will be sunny again
There has already been warm spots
The warm hugs of caring friends
Food for many
Plants, flowers, prayers, well-wishes
Trumpet calls, flag given
Speeches given

Yet the valley loomed large
We walked in its shadows long before he breathed his last breath
The coldness of the shadows

The need to remember
Not to fear
For He is with us

He was with him in the ICU
With her staring out the window
With us and the stove light on
And the hospital calling saying they intubated him again

We felt the long, cold shadows of death
Death of the grave
Long before
The sting of the last breath

But for now, for him
He taken the last great leap of faith
His faith has become sight

He is holding my child, his grandchild
They wait for us
And one day we will sing together
Great songs of our redemption story
Oh the glories far surpass the trials of now

But for now,
We look through papers
And settle estates
And wish he was here

  * * * 
This is part of the 31 Day series: 
The Clarence Chronicles: Lessons of Faith from the ICU
Click HERE to read Day 1, which links to all the posts in this series.

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Click HERE to read other 31 Dayers who are also taking the 31 Day challenge.

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