I remember the day Dad died. I’d never seen anyone die before, and it was traumatic. He’d fallen backwards onto concrete, breaking his pelvis in 13 pieces. Although he was 92 and ought not to have been immobilized, there was no medical choice. Nothing was going to put his pelvis back together except traction and time, although the doctor knew other health issues would arise if Dad lay still in a bed too long.
Two weeks later, still in traction, he began battling the consequences of being made to lie still: blood clots, mini-heart attacks, bed sores, threats of stroke. Eventually his kidneys failed, his lungs filled with fluid and as he died, he gasped for air, unconscious but struggling to breathe. When this happened, I looked away. It was awful to see him gasp in a choking way, even though it lasted only a few seconds. I panicked and cried, “What’s he doing?” In short, I acted badly.
After we learned of Nate’s terminal cancer, I thought back to Dad’s death scene. I told myself, “I’ve got to do better than that. I want to be Nate’s partner in suffering if I can, and I want to stay focused on him and his needs, all the way to the end.”
None of us knew what to expect, not on any one day and certainly not in those final moments, whenever they would come. But I trusted God to strengthen us and bring understanding as we needed it. I sometimes woke during the night trying to picture the end, craving God’s preparation for what would happen and the role I would need to fulfill. I knew one thing for sure; I didn’t want to turn away from my husband the way I’d turned away from my dad.
As I prayed about the unknowns of my assignment, God seemed to impress on me that if I committed my mind to his keeping, everything else would be ok. The physical part would work itself out day by day, and I knew the emotional stuff would be accompanied by tears and sadness. But if my mind was submitted to God, I knew I could partner with Nate, no matter what.
Scripture kept me calm. The verse that helped most was Romans 12:2.”Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I knew if I asked God to transform me by renewing my mind every day, I would be ready for whatever came. Another verse I prayed back to God countless times was Philippians 1:7. It said that if I called out to God, letting him know what I needed, acknowledging the blessings while I was in the struggles, his peace would keep my mind through Christ Jesus. I believed that meant he would keep me from being overwhelmed or unable to cope. He would keep me sane.
Often during those six weeks, along with the wake and funeral days that followed, I felt my mind tip-toeing around the edge of panic. But when that happened, I could almost feel God tapping me on the shoulder as if to say, “Remember what I told you. Claim the words again for your mind. If you stay focused on me, you’ll be filled with peace.”
God kept his word and kept me sane.
”Know the God of your father, and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)