Suffering

Romans 8:16-18 (ESV)
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

For those who haven’t heard, my wife’s sister passed away a couple of days ago after being in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for the last seven months.  I’ve watched my wife ride the day to day ups and downs and take every wave hard even though I would try to warn her not to get too excited when things looked better and not to get too down when things looked bad.  A couple of weeks ago the doctors called her sister’s husband in and told him there was nothing left for them to do.  A week ago, we drove the six hours and the entire family met with the doctors because decisions had to be made.  She was suffering and the doctors had nothing left to offer, they were keeping her alive with no hope of recovery.  This was a painful realization for some who were living with false hope; everyone was in some level of denial; there was debate and concern, was removing what was keeping her failed body alive murder?  Finally, all agreed that she should be made comfortable.

The hospital on the other hand has seen this scenario all too often and even has a dedicated team to handle what they call comfort care.  The family gathered at the hospital again and was granted the use of a conference room inside the ward so they would be close and wouldn’t be sitting out with the other families in the waiting room.  Visiting hours and rules were waived and all were given as much time to say goodbye as they needed.  Then those who wanted to be present gathered in the room and the nurse was informed that we were ready.  The comfort care team was called in and her pain medicine was turned up just to make sure she would not feel any pain or anxiety as the life support was reduced.  They slowly reduced the life support and twenty minutes later her heart stopped.  Her suffering was over and she headed out to see God’s glory.

The family’s suffering continues; arrangements must be made; phone calls; grieving.  I should mention that in some ways I’m almost an outside observer as I’ve not spent a great deal of time with my wife’s sister.  I did not grow up with her, we would see her at Thanksgiving and Christmas and once in a while in between but I’ve only been part of this family for a relatively short time, not quite twelve years.  The nurses who have been taking care of her for the last seven months may have spent more time with her than I have.  Also, my family handles death in a much less emotional manner.  That being said I am also still in shock that a young, active woman is now gone and it is very hard for me to see my wife in so much pain.

Yesterday, we went to the funeral home.  I was only there to help comfort and possibly carry out my wife or her mother if they needed support.  The arrangements were made, pretty much standard for the area, you just pick your colors and verses and tell them about any special items you want.  Again, my family is very different as we don’t put any value on the empty shell we each will leave behind, for example when my father died his body was sent directly from the hospital to be cremated while we had his wake at my brother’s house.  We saw the relatives you only see at weddings and funerals, had a meal together, passed some pictures around (this was a little hard for my mom to handle) and talked about anything but death.  A week later there was a second gathering at the beach for friends of the family where the ashes were disposed.  I did not feel any need to attend although I would like to have seen some of the people that were there.

Last night we had a meal with my wife’s family at her sister’s mother-in-law’s house.  Now, we wait in the hotel for the next couple of days while the funeral home gets everything in order.  A quick service and trip to the cemetery next week is all that’s left of the formal process.  The grieving will go on for much longer and I suspect next Thanksgiving will be very different and difficult.  There’s so much more that I could say about each step of this process but this is where I will leave off for now.

Heavenly Father,
You are merciful and I know that you are comforting us this very hour and we give thanks.  Please, give us all strength, comfort and confidence to know that our sister is with you now.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit and make us witnesses to your truth for Jesus’ sake I pray.
Amen

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2 Responses to “Suffering”

  1. Wow, you’ve been going through a lot. I pray you and your family will experience God’s comfort during this time of suffering. Grace and peace to you.

  2. Jim,

    Sorry to hear about Jennifer”s sister. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers…Chris

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