Wednesday, January 16

looking death in the eye

my "sister" my friend -
my gift from God
Looking death in the eyes.  I have been thinking about that - about death. About dying. About the journey.  I will be honest - when I lost my mom in 1996, the fear went out of dying.   I remember watching mom breathe her last and go into the presence of the Lord.  Peacefully.  I have watched death creep into the lives of my dad (1997) next although death came very suddenly and unexpectedly without much warning.  And then I walked along side of my dad (in law) as he got weaker and weaker (June 2006) and then my mom (in law) as we brought her home from an 8 week stay in the hospital to die at home in fall of 2010.  I realize that in every case where the journey was longer (Mom, Dad K, Mom K) I was off work at the time, and able to spend alot of time with them, supporting, loving, caring, praying, sitting, weeping along the way.  It was a gift that I treasure and one that I considered a privilege to be a part of their care.  Hard.  But precious.

And now, death is overtaking the physical body of my friend Audrey - as she journeys toward Jesus - a little more with each day.  It is the strangest thing in many ways, how God brought us together - only 2 years ago.  He brought us together at our church - Eastview Community Church, and into the same caregroup, and also brought us within the same neighborhood (about a half mile apart from one another).  God has given me (and Alvin) such an incredible gift in the friendship of Audrey and Arnold - that I just really shake my head at how it has all happened.  The thing is - I have never known a healthy woman as my friend, as when we met - she was beginning her first kick at the cat called Cancer, only for the cat to come back with a vengeance for Round 2 last year.  And while she fought it tooth and nail, and the doctors pulled out all the stops to combat it, it was at the beginning of November that she was given about 2-3 months to live.  It was strange, because all along it felt like God was preparing us to lose her, and so when we heard the prognosis given in that small room at CancerCare, I went in their with them feeling like I knew - the end was very near.

And even though death has been tightening its ugly grip on her physical body - God has been giving her the most amazing peace, and strength and I have stood amazed often.  I asked her one day - "Audrey are you ever mad at God?  Do you ever want to ask him why you?" To which she replied very calmly and quietly - "No, not mad.  And really, why not me?"   This journey of hers has been a hard one and a long one, but there has been such peace (as I just said) and also such grace, and such honesty.  We have shared many talks, many tears, many hugs, and many "I love you's" ...  and lately we have shared many moments where we just look at one another, and again yesterday, I had this sense that her big brown eyes were just drinking it all in ... every last drop of this life here and now on her way to life eternal with Jesus.

We have talked a lot about heaven - about meeting Jesus.  We have talked about our grandson Jay.  We have talked about plots at Sunnyside, funerals service and about her life which she allowed me to ask questions about and put into a eulogy for her service.  Much of this seems surreal.  Much of it seems weird when she or her husband talk about it in her presence.  But she is okay with it all.  I asked her the other day - if there was anything left unsaid - and she said "no".  At this point she just wants to go - wants the fight to be done - and so we are praying that God will take her unto himself any time.

I think I look death in the eye each time I sit by her bed - but the thing is - it does not scare us because we know that there is only victory for her in death - and that there is no sting - because of what Jesus has done for her, for me - for you - for all of us.  And God - He is way bigger - much more powerful - than any icy grip that death tries to have on a person.  Guess that is why we can look death in the eyes and not fear.

Last summer apparently, they went for a drive out to Sunnyside to look at the place we had been talking about.  That is where our little Jay is buried.  That is also where Alvin and I purchased two plots prior to moving out of the municipality.  (yes, we wanted to save some money by purchasing them when we lived in the RM that owned the cemetery).  Audrey told me she wanted to be buried close to where Jay was buried.  (which meant close to where we would also one day be buried too).  So Alvin and Arnold went for the drive - and picked two plots.  This summer - I will have one more reason to take flowers.  I wish it wasn't so - but it will be.  I usually take daisies to Jay's grave ... and I know that she loves daisies too, so I will also lay them on her grave.

As I write this, my "sister" my friend - has been admitted into a hospital in the city - for palliative care.
It is a peaceful place (same place my dad in law went and passed away).  In fact as I walked into the building yesterday when she was admitted - I realized that last time I was there was the night I walked out with Mom, having said our last good-bye to Dad K's body.  It was strange to be back there.  She has a good doctor - caring and compassionate - and nurses to match as well.  It is a place dedicated to making the final part of this journey on earth - peaceful and comfortable and hopefully as pain free as possible.  But with admission came the reality - that this is the end stage.  Unbelievable - as the doctor said, it is sad because she is so young.

Walking alongside of her - I consider a gift.  Her friendship is one of those rare and treasured things that God has given to Alvin and I.   Our friendship with Arnold will continue, but I already know the deep loss that will be felt.   I am not sure what I would want - when my end comes.  But I know that she likes to have us close by, and it is a gift of time that I can give her, and also Arnold, so that he can conserve some of his energy for he is going to need it.  And I will be honest - the time alone - alongside of her bed - sometimes just holding her hand - it is precious.  It's not always pretty (especially if one is called to hold the bowl while feeling nauseous) but friendships aren't always neat and tidy are they lol.
As I have watched her sleep, I have thought of the verse that asks "death where is thy sting" and so I looked it up - and it is right here.  For Audrey - soon she will be with Jesus.  He knows the day, the hour ... where she will then be absent from the body and present with the Lord.  It is my prayer that for her - it will be soon, and she will be finally healed!

If you read this, please keep this family in your thoughts, and in your prayers - for strength, for comfort, for peace and for an overwhelming sense of the presence of God in her room - in their lives - in their beings.  Thanks.

1 Corinthians 15:55

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984) 
“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

 - - and also from The Message - 1 Corinthians 15:55
Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!


Anonymous said...

Blessings and strenght as you walk this journey with Audrey and Arnold.

You are a precious gift to them and many others.


Velma said...

Thanks, Joy, for helping me put life -- and its hard times -- into proper perspective.

Anonymous said...

Oh Joy - bless you for being there for Audrey and Arnold - in life and death! Will continue praying!

Anonymous said...

You have been a good friend to Audrey. So happy you where there for her. Can't wait to see the Retreat Centre. The ladies bible study group would love to plant a tree/shrub in honour of Audrey in the garden. Let us know your thoughts/wishes.

Elsie Fontaine

Cameron VSJ said...
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