The word “sacred” is linked with deity and is not to be tossed about frivolously, but I like to use it to describe the small room where Nate died. Tonight, sitting in that room in a quiet cottage, my computer is illuminated by the glow of the same green desk lamp that served as Nate’s night light while he slept in his hospital bed here. The clock, ringed in small beach stones, still ticks away the seconds of each day just as it timed-out the minutes of his life.
When Nate and I squeezed two houses worth of furniture into one smaller home last June, the functions of several rooms changed. This cozy little nook became our “library”. Nate was a reader with a capital “R” and particularly loved political history. Our book shelves in Chicago bowed beneath the weight of hundreds of selections, many read multiple times. Before we moved, I asked him to cull out his favorite 100 books. This was like asking a child in a candy shop to pick just one piece.
The books he saved are now shelved in this room, a window into his thoughts: THE PATH TO POWER, NIXON AND KISSENGER, THE OREGON TRAIL, T.R., BEHIND THE OVAL OFFICE, WHAT LINCOLN BELIEVED, NATASHA’S DANCE, AN UNFINISHED LIFE, OUR FIRST REVOLUTION, and of course LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS (Elvis). As he lay in his hospital bed, strength draining away, he was surrounded by his favorite people and his favorite books.
The morning after Nate died, Hospice sent a man over to collect their equipment. Once the big bed had been removed, the library begged to be put back as it had been, pre-cancer. It was a quick way to eliminate the cavernous hole left when Nate and his bed were both gone.
I enjoy blogging in this room, remembering all that went on during those 18 days when the hub of our home became Nate’s hospital bed. In this room, volumes of prayer were spoken out, acknowledging God’s minute-to-minute involvement in Nate’s life (and death). This is where family members communicated deep love and respect for a man they loved.
This is where Mary and I spent three consecutive nights watching out for death, not wanting Nate to leave without a loving send-off. This is where we all said our final goodbyes, and this is where Nate died. A bed in a library became his springboard to heaven.
The room itself isn’t really sacred with its walls desperate for fresh paint and its floor in need of carpeting. But what happened within this place was sacred indeed, because Divinity was powerfully active during those days. God was busy putting his flawless plans into action within the minds, souls and hearts of each individual, working one-on-one simultaneously and in detail, as only he can do.
Although our days and nights in the library with Nate were peppered with trouble and heartbreak, I saw and continue to see valuable fruit being produced as a result of them. The whole scenario was a God-allowed (possibly God-initiated) test for each of us, including Nate. Some of us will need to be tested again in similar ways as part of our life-training. Others passed their tests, gaining in maturity and godliness, and will be brought to new tests in order to make greater gains.
At first glance, this seems to be the manipulation of a cruel God. When we recognize, however, that his goal is to ready us for our “real” life in eternity, we can accept present-day testing as judicious. Life’s greatest gains seem to come only under heavy pressure.
Nate had a saying that could have been a life verse, had it been in the Bible: “Pressure produces.” During several periods of his life when he found himself in a pressure-cooker, he refused to fall apart, persevering through trials to the best of his ability. His last test was his most demanding, but we all agree he passed with flying colors. As a result, he received God’s permission to graduate from his somewhat sacred room to his supremely sacred new home.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:2-3,12)