death and what really matters

Kim2I watched my sister die last Thursday. Held her hand and told her it was ok to let go, to just go to Jesus. It was hard and it was holy and it was painful in so many ways.

Painful was watching my dad lose another child. His first-born son died in 2009 after a long battle. As a mother, I have only my imagination to tell me what this has been like for him. A parents’ greatest fear came true for him not once, but twice. More than I hated watching my sister die, I hated watching my dad’s daughter die in front of him. Yet, there was something good in that, somehow. Good that he was there, holding her hand. She always called him “daddy”. They lived together and took care of each other until they couldn’t. I called him to tell him it was close, and her last breath came about 5 minutes after he sat down next to her. I think she was waiting for him. There is a sweetness in that, something to cherish.

My younger sister was Kim’s power of attorney for medical decisions. The weight of deciding where my sister would die was heavy, and that was painful to watch. I will probably never know the amount of phone calls and conversations with nurses, doctors, insurance companies and hospice people that she had to have. Kim didn’t want to die in the hospital and my sister made sure that wish was honored. Kim came home to my sister’s house, to a hospital bed in the living room where she could hear the sounds of family all around her. Kelly was determined to not let our sister die with strangers, in a hospital that she never wanted to be in, and I am grateful for her tenacity. Granted, Kelly is a woman of small patience, so nurses, doctors and anyone on the telephone with her bore the brunt of that, but she loves fiercely and I’m glad that I got to watch her love our sister the way she did. She and I each shared Kim’s life individually — she, close up and me from far away. But we shared her dying together, and I believe Kim was as comforted by that as I was.

I left the day after she died. My daughter’s due date for her first baby was yesterday, and I wanted to be sure to be home for that. As I write this, we are still waiting for the arrival of that sweet little life. I don’t know what to make of this tension. Grieving a life that left and joyously awaiting the one that is coming. The ugliness of death and the beauty of new life. Missing my sister and anticipating my grand baby.

Those last days and hours with my sister were ugly and beautiful and I think there is a part of me that wants everything to stop so that I can figure out how I feel. But nothing stops. Life keeps going and there’s no time to put all the different feelings out on the table and go through them. Maybe it’s a good thing…that grieving death has to happen in the small gaps that come while living.

Thanksgiving is almost here. My kids will be here and I will cook a meal and we will enjoy a brief time of being together. I will bask in the sounds of life in my home, the sound of my 5 month old granddaughter, my kid’s laughter, the stories around the table. And I will be thankful, but this year, thankfulness will look different.

I will be thankful that I had the opportunity to hold my sister’s hand while she died. As hard as it was, I will cherish it. It represents a relationship that I am grateful to have had with her. Someone once remarked that it would be better not to have relationships, because then you don’t have to go through things like this…the sadness and the pain of losing them. I would rather know the pain of losing someone I knew and loved, than to have missed out on that relationship. Relationships are worth the risk of pain.

I am thankful that I know that death has no sting for those who belong to Christ. In the midst of her dying, fighting for every breath, I heard God say, “Cancer got her body, but that’s all it gets. I get everything else”. I am thankful my sister still lives, though she has died. I am thankful to have had the privilege of watching her grow spiritually, watching her hold onto faith in the midst of suffering and to know that she has received the reward of her faith.

I am thankful that I witnessed the goodness of people. Friends and family who displayed so much kindness, who sat with us quietly because there was nothing else they could do, who brought food and snacks for yours truly, who spent six days eating her emotions. For the care of the hospice nurses and aides who were heroic in the way they cared for my sister, because not once did I feel like they were simply earning a paycheck. I am thankful because I got to see the kindness of people, not just in the midst of my own circumstance, but in the midst of all that is going on in the world that makes us afraid. I saw death, but I also saw good, and I saw caring, and I saw the softness of people in a harsh world.

And I am thankful for life. For whatever time is mine, I want it to matter. And what I discovered is that all of the things that mattered to my sister, no longer mattered in the end. Her belongings, her lack of money, her fears and worries…blown away like breath on a dandelion. What mattered was that she mattered to the people she loved. What mattered was that she was surrounded by people who wanted to take care of her as she died, who saw it as a privilege and not a burden. Because she had loved us. In the end, it wasn’t what she gave us or did for us. It wasn’t stuff or money or anything temporal that made us want to care for her, made us willing to carry her into death. It was the fact that she loved us, and we knew it, and we loved her back.

I am thankful to have glimpsed what really matters. Not whether I lived life to the fullest, with gusto. Not whether I had enough or even gave enough. It will not matter whether I did great things. What will matter is, did I love in such a way that those around me knew they were loved? It matters, in the end, and for all us there will be an end.

Of all the questions that I have for God, He answered one that I hadn’t asked. What will matter the most when my time here is over? I am not surprised by the answer I found.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1Corinthians 13:1-13

My sister did not have much to give to anyone. Illness kept her from being able to physically do a whole lot. She always wanted to be able to help someone learn more about God. She wanted to do something with her life, something good and important, and always felt sad that she couldn’t go on a mission trip (to any place but Africa), or share the gospel like other people. But she did what mattered. She loved the people in her life. Her mission field was her family and friends and she sowed what God gave her. Love.

So, Kimmie, I hope that now you know the truth. You did more than you know, and what you did mattered the most. You loved. Well done sweetie, well done. And now I will say it one more time, and I will hear the echo of the response you always gave.

Me:  I love you.  
You:  I love you more. You know that, right? Of course you do.

I’m going to miss that most of all, I think.



growing old and unfading glory

It seems that here, in our mid-50’s, the aging process has become impossible to ignore. My husband hurt his arm awhile back, and it still hurts. What’s that got to do with aging? He hurt it putting on his seat belt. Google says it’s probably the rotator cuff. Google knows everything. And seat belts are evil.

And then there’s me. Sometimes when I call someone, while the phone is ringing I have to quickly check my phone to see who I’m calling. Because I forgot. And just so you know…should you ever have to chase me down for anything, you won’t get winded.

We are aging, and speaking only for myself, not at all gracefully. I’m doing it while tripping over the floor, running into walls, and peeing my pants when I sneeze. I get exhausted watching the younger generation live life. I can’t pull an all-nighter anymore. Ok, fine. I can’t stay up past midnight without requiring a few days to “catch up”. If I make a to-do list, I give myself a month or two to get it done, and still have to-do’s left over. I don’t understand today’s music and for crying out loud someone tell those boys to hike up their drawers. And why do you all look Amish now? Shave your face.

Naps are my new black.

Every now and then I hear Bruce Springsteen in my head singing Glory Days, and I am reminded that my glory is fading.

And then today, I read from Ephesians and my soul got a grand pep talk.

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:17-21

He. is. unchanging.

The same power that delivered you 25 years ago, or yesterday, will deliver you today. His strength does not weaken, His love does not wane, His mercy is always new. He has never forgotten you. He remains for you and not against you.

His strength, His power, His love, His faithfulness…they never change, never weaken, never run out.

He still owns the cattle on a thousands hills, His storehouse remains full and He still opens His hand to satisfy every living thing.

His healing power has not diminished, His voice still speaks, His truth is still true and His plans remain firm.

Today, as from the beginning, He is seeking the lost, binding up broken hearts, setting captives free and overcoming darkness. His arm is still not too short, and He remains mighty to save.

His is not a flickering flame but the Light of the whole world. He is still a champion of the poor and the oppressed, a Father to the orphan and a Husband to the widow, and He is still moved with compassion on your behalf.

His is the Name above all names and forever it will be. Today, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the High Priest, the Cornerstone and our firm foundation. His blood still covers, His atonement for our sins is still enough, and it is still finished.

He is still firmly seated on His throne, angels are still bowing, elders are casting crowns at His feet and heaven stills resounds with the cry of “Holy!”

Our Redeemer still lives, and His glory never fades.

I want to know Him better. I want to know the hope to which He has called me, the riches of His glorious inheritance in me, and His incomparably great power for me, who believes.

Glory days may be passing by, but I am still being invited to draw near and know better, the One with unfading glory. I like that.

one thing

Word“I have created you with great capacity. Your heart can hold many of the things of God. The only way you will be able to walk in the full capacity I have given you, is to let nothing compete with your pursuit of our relationship.

Pursue me as your Father. Continually seek me as a son. Keep me as the one thing of your heart.

One thing I ask from the Lordthis only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. ~ Luke 10:42

Guard your secret place with Me. If I am the one thing of your heart, I will make room for the many things I have given you. But, if the many things are what you hold first, they will not make room for Me. Eventually, it may take one year or ten, but at some point you will find yourself holding the many things of God, but not holding God.”

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Continue reading “one thing”

do you know why she kissed His feet?

Luke 7:36-50

That story, the one about the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume, blows me away every time. It’s not so much because she reminds me of me, although she does. But so does that pharisee guy.

Today, it’s more that Jesus reminds me of Jesus.

The One who receives sinners and let’s them cry all over His feet. The Jesus who knows the difference between someone who invites Him in because He’ll make them look good, and the one who risks humiliation because they know He is worthy of honor. The One who defends the weak, the shamed, the outcast, against those who look down on them. Continue reading “do you know why she kissed His feet?”

be great

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” …And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” –  Matthew 18:1, 3-4

Something in us is so prone to the desire to be great, lured by the idea of more, better, greater. So gullible to the lie.

“In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:5-6


And the lie is everywhere. “You are not great, and what you have and who you are is not enough. And God is holding out on you.” Continue reading “be great”

don’t be a trader

“Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field exhausted. He said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, because I’m exhausted.” … Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look,” said Esau, “I’m about to die, so what good is a birthright to me?”… So he swore to Jacob and sold his birthright to him.” – Genesis 25:29-32

stewEsau was hungry, so he traded away the blessing. He would have received twice the inheritance as his younger brother, but he gave it away for a temporary pleasure.

What do we trade away? Continue reading “don’t be a trader”

uncovering our unbelief

“So He was not able to do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.” – Mark 6:5

And I marvel at the power of unbelief, to be able to hinder the miracles of God. To my knowledge, scripture mentions nothing else that causes God to be “not able”. Continue reading “uncovering our unbelief”