It all started as I was reading a friend's blog today. She was writing about losing one of her good friends a while back to a long battle with cancer. There was a link to her friend's blog, so I went there and read some of the last posts before she died. It was hard. I didn't even know her, but my close friend did, and I felt for her. It's scary knowing of someone so young dying of cancer. It makes it so much more real, so much more a threat. This brave young woman fought for a year and a half before she passed away and as I was thinking about that I realized how difficult that must have been for her family. To watch her suffer and slowly die. But then I thought, "at least they got a chance to say goodbye." It might sound morbid, but I went on to think about which would be the preferable way to die. Slowly, with lots of room for 'last times' and goodbyes, or suddenly, with no final 'I love yous'. And I couldn't decide.
My father died suddenly. One minute I believed him living and the next I was informed he had been dead for hours. And I felt a million things all at once, yet nothing at the same time. There were no goodbyes or I love yous, and there were no last times...only the ones I would look back on later and cherish as my last moments with him, unaware of the future. I think the shock of losing a loved one so suddenly makes for a longer grieving process. With slow deaths you have time to prepare, and in the end it always seems more like...relief--that they are finally in a place of no pain, that the long anxious waiting is over, that closure has been found and life will continue--than it does an overwhelming sorrow. There's no shock--that has already come and gone with whatever diagnosis led to this end. There's only quiet sorrow and the God-given overwhelming urge to continue life...to continue living.
It's times like these I do not know how I could survive without God. How do unbelievers weather the storm of life and death without relying on Him? To have no hope, no joy, and no future would be beyond my imagination. Even in death we as Christians know we have won. 1 Corinthians 15 is especially encouraging to me.
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
If I had to choose between the two, I couldn't. Death is a horrible, yet necessary part of life, and we all must come to it eventually. To die suddenly is perhaps better for the dead, yet more difficult for the living, and to die a long painful death is difficult for both, yet offers final opportunities otherwise not found. In the end, it must be left to God. All we, all I, can do is trust Him.