Archives For death

The Last Enemy

Alyson Kieda —  November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Orchid by Bahman Farzad, Creative Commons/flickr

Dad was falling often and more frequently. Even though he had a walker, he didn’t use it. (We’re not sure if it was forgetfulness or stubbornness—or both.) Last New Year’s day, Dad fell getting out of bed, and Mom couldn’t help him up. After a stay in the hospital, he was moved to a nursing home; and then we agreed he would not be returning home. He needed too much care. We couldn’t expect our mom to be a good caregiver when she was becoming more and more forgetful herself.

Over the next few months Mom kept trying to pack up Dad’s stuff and bring him home. She was becoming both irrational and emotional. Due to her behavior, Dad became even more confused and depressed. We finally convinced Mom to be tested. Our suspicions were confirmed—Mom had Alzheimer’s.

Dad died last November, just days before his 89th birthday. During the months preceding that, we took away Mom’s checking account. (She was writing a check to every charity that sent her a request—and she was receiving scores of them. Her account was overdrawn and the fees were piling up.) And then her driver’s license was taken away. A neighbor in her retirement village caught her driving—and none too well—after her license was taken away, so we disabled and then removed the car.

In December, my youngest sister took in Mom. But after 10 months, Mom was moved into an assisted living facility. Her care required too much of my sister.

Watching parents decline is heart-rending. It was painful to watch my dad, who was a hardy outdoorsman, lose more and more of his physical abilities—and then take his final shallow breath. And it’s heartbreaking to watch my mother, who was “sharp as a tack,” loose her spark and fade into forgetfulness and confusion.

I know it’s inevitable. “Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:48). But I hate it—and it wasn’t meant to be. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, the dead in Christ will be resurrected and death, “the last enemy,” will one day be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

Until that day, we press on in the strength that only God can provide (Psalm 28:7). And we take comfort from others in the community of faith who have walked through grief before us.

To learn about helping others deal with grief, tune into our upcoming Webinar, Shepherding Others Through Loss, on November 6, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST.

No one goes looking for sorrow. It finds us. No matter how we try to outdistance it, run faster, take a quick left, slow down, or tuck in behind the bushes and hide. Nothing changes the reality that sorrow will eventually sniff us out and hunt us down.

In her forward to A Sorrow SharedHenri Nouwen’s reflections on his mother’s death, Barbara Brown Taylor wrote: “Every death lays bare what really matters” (p. viii).

Those words take me back to what at one time seemed like strange words of ancient wisdom from the writer of Ecclesiastes: “The day of death [is] better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart” (Eccl. 7:1-3).

How can this be? The day someone dies is better than the day that person was born? Seriously? Does anyone really believe it’s better to go to a funeral than a party?

Only the grieving can understand the irony of those words. Until we’ve loved, lost, and are heartbroken, we just don’t get it. And the understanding doesn’t come quickly. It’s a process that takes time.

As grievers will tell you, grief is an isolating experience. While grief is common to all, every experience is unique to each individual. No one griever can say to another, “I know exactly what you feel.” No, you don’t. No one knows exactly what you feel except one. Jesus knows, cares, and has felt everything more acutely than any of us.

The timeless wisdom from Ecclesiastes is that all the distractions, demands, and responsibilities of life clamoring for our attention, time, and energy are all but silenced in the isolation of grief. Any significant loss jolts us out of our routine malaise and vividly sharpens our focus on the things that matter most in life. The author doesn’t say that going to a funeral is a fun or pleasant experience. That would be morbid and weird. What he says is that it’s important. It helps us refocus on the things that matter.

When we are forced to view the end of our lives—our mortality through the loss of those we love—it can and should change the way we see, understand, and live life while we still can. Death is the destiny of everyone. That’s true. But while we’re still alive, let’s live every one of our todays with a passion to know and love Jesus more and to serve Him faithfully.

 

Loss of a Child

Tim Jackson —  April 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

Some losses are unthinkable.

As a parent, there is nothing more devastating than the thought of losing one of my children. Just thinking of it feels unbearable.

But the aching reality is that millions of parents face that overwhelming loss every year.

According to Wikipedia, 6.9 million children died worldwide before the age of 5 in 2011. In the United States, over 53,000 children die under the age of 19 every year.

The journey through grief is one we are never prepared to take, especially when it comes to the loss of a child. Grief isolates. And that’s why we’re here. We’ve produced a program to come alongside those struggling through the loss of a child to let them know that they are not alone.

Two couples, Kevin and Dawn Burgess and Bob and Chris Zedeck have courageously opened their hearts and lives to share with us in their own words what their journey through grief has been like for them.

Here’s a trailer for the program that airs this weekend on the Day of Discovery television program on the Ion Network.

Please, if you or someone you know is grieving over the loss of a child, join us for more on The Journey Through: Loss of a Child.

Unavoidable Pain

Tim Jackson —  February 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

In my role as a father, I’ve always considered protecting my three children from harm and from things that would hurt them as one of my primary missions. Hot stoves. Sharp knives. Power tools. Bikes. Cars. People. All of them have the potential for good or harm. Knowing how to handle each is crucial to minimize the risks of pain.

At times, I’ve succeeded. But all too often I’ve failed miserably. Or at least that’s how I feel when I’m helpless to prevent something from hurting one of them.

On Friday, I felt that helpless feeling again. This time it was a text from my youngest, my baby girl. (Yea, she’s 22, but she’ll always be my baby! You dads know exactly what I mean.)

The text was urgent, simple, and pointed:

“Please pray. One of my friends Micah is in the hospital after passing out in the pool. They haven’t been able to fully revive him yet. Please, please pray!”

A few moments later, she wrote, “He didn’t make it . . . Please pray for his family.”

My wife and I were on our way to meet my son and his wife for dinner. We were anticipating a wonderful time together. Now we were stunned, kicked in the gut. We ached for our daughter, but we felt a deeper grief for Micah’s parents who we’ve never met and who just lost their precious son. (His older sister had been on my daughter’s floor last semester.)

As we parked the car, my wife and I clutched hands and prayed. We asked that God be present with our daughter, and that He would hold and comfort her, her friends, the student body and staff of the Christian college she’s attending, Micah’s family, his roommate, the young men on his floor, and the students who pulled him out of the pool and did their best to revive him. All are reeling in pain from the loss of this vibrant young man.

We prayed that God would surround them with His loving embrace so that they would know they were loved even in the middle of their pain.

Recently I’ve been working through some material on the loss of a child in preparation for an upcoming program. In his book Written In Tears, Luke Veldt writes about the tragic and sudden death of Allison, his 13-year-old daughter. He makes an astounding and terrifying statement: “It took the death of my daughter for me to begin to understand the love of God” (p. 24).

Yikes! I want to know the love of God, but must it require that pain and loss be inflicted on my heart to truly know His love? Luke’s book describes his personal journey through grief and “how I came to know God better, not just despite my loss, but because of it” (p. 25).

Luke goes on to quote A. W. Tozer who wrote: “The Bible was written in tears and to tears it will reveal its best treasures” (p. 22). It’s the journey through grief that often drives us to the God of the Bible for answers. But there are no answers that will bring our loved one back or remove the pain of their absence.

Yet God is there. He’s not silent. And He weeps with us because He loves us. He’s not impotent or uncaring because He didn’t prevent the pain. Even though He’s a perfect parent, God never promised to protect us from all pain. But He’s with us in our pain.

The journey through painful loss was never meant to be taken alone. We need others to go with us, reliable guides who have walked this path and found hope in the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). How Can I Live With My Loss? is a booklet we’ve prepared to help you navigate your journey through grief.

And a request: Please pray for Micah’s family, my daughter Tracey and her friends, classmates, and the staff at Moody Bible Institute as they take this journey through grief together. Pray that the pain of this loss will bind them into a healing community that is empowered by the loving God who welcomed Micah home with joyful celebration.

My Mom

Jeff Olson —  May 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

This Sunday I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day without a mother. After a year-long illness, my dear mom recently passed on to be with Jesus.

Mom was eighty.

Not only will I miss mom terribly, I found myself feeling sad over all the things she was never able to enjoy in this vast and amazing world. There were so many activities mom was never able to do, places she was never able to see, and experiences she did not have—partly because she willingly sacrificed so much for the seven of us kids and our families; partly because she simply ran out time.

As I felt sad for all that mom has missed out on, the hope of a renewed earth brought me great comfort. While I am fully convinced that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, I do not see in the Bible that Jesus came to save us from the earth.

Instead, I read that Jesus also came to liberate, restore and reclaim this world that we have so fouled up (Romans 8:21).

I read that when God finally comes back to dwell with us forever and death will be no more, He will bring heaven to earth (Revelation 21:2-4).

I read that it has been God’s plan all along to “bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The Bible reassures me that someday mom (and anyone who has died in the Lord) is coming back to this earth to reign with Jesus (Revelation 5:9-10). When Jesus returns, mom’s going to be a co-steward of God’s new creation as He originally meant His image bearers to be (Genesis 1:28). And she, having been redeemed by Jesus, will have the rest of eternity to experience all the things she missed out on (and so much more) in the new heaven and earth.

As I celebrate my first Mother’s Day without mom, I am so grateful for the Jesus legacy she passed on to her children. And I can only imagine all that she has to look forward to in Him.

The Final Enemy

Tim Jackson —  April 27, 2012 — 10 Comments

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26)

Those words have been stuck in my head these last two weeks–and the reminders are everywhere.

As you read in last week’s beautiful post by my fellow blogger Allison about the unexpected death of her sister Jodi, death still seems to be winning. The previous week marked what would have been my dad’s 86th birthday. We lost him last July, just 8 weeks after my mom lost her battle with cancer on June 3rd. Her birthday on May 1st is not a day I’m looking forward to, nor is Mother’s Day.

And as I write, my friend and co-worker in the cubicle next to me is watching vigil with his family gathered at the bedside of his elderly mother who is slipping away into eternity. The eerie parallels to last May for my family are uncomfortably familiar.

Death stinks! I hate it. It’s a ruthless enemy. I know it’s the last enemy to be destroyed before Jesus starts making everything new. I, for one, can’t wait.

In his vision of the way things will someday be, John wrote of it this way:

“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the thrown said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” (Rev. 21:4-5)

The real deal is that someday, death will be decisively crushed under the heel of Jesus Christ, the One who tasted death for us all so that we too can share in His victory dance.

“‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting.’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

So, until that day when we will dance on the grave of death with our Lord, let’s embrace one another with words of comfort, prayers of support and acts of compassion in our times of loss, sorrow and grief.

For more on facing death, check out Michael Wittmer’s The Last Enemy.

Born to die

Jeff Olson —  December 15, 2011 — 1 Comment

We are well into that special time of the year where our focus turns to the celebration of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-20). The world has never been the same since that supernatural night in Bethlehem so many years ago.

Once, however, you get past His birth in Bethlehem, the Gospel records of Jesus’ life make it clear that He knew He was born to die. Jesus spoke of His death (and His resurrection) early in his early ministry (John 2:19-21) and often (Mark 8:31).

Have you ever wondered why? Why did Jesus have to die, and at such a young age? Couldn’t He have accomplished so much more if He had lived for several decades and died of natural causes?

Imagine all of sickness and disease Jesus could have healed and the mind boggling miracles He could have performed. Think of the additional teachings He could’ve imparted and the problems in the world He could have righted.

The reason Jesus had to die is simply this—we needed Him to die so that we wouldn’t have to. We desperately needed Jesus to give his life so that we could live (Romans 6:4).

As we celebrate and remember the miracle of His birth, let’s also remember why He was born to die.

“Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” –Romans 5:18 NLT

 

 

Compassionate Friends

Allison Stevens —  December 7, 2011 — 5 Comments

I talked with a friend today about the death of her son.  She’s dreading the holidays without him. She and her husband are consumed with thoughts about him and seeing him again someday.

I remembered that I had read an article in the newspaper about an organization called The Compassionate Friends, a place to help grieving families after the death of a child. I told my friend about Compassionate Friends and an event CF started 15 years ago: The Worldwide Candle Lighting night. Each year, the second Sunday in December is dedicated to remembering, honoring, and reflecting on the lives of children who died. December 11, 2011 is the Worldwide Candle Lighting night, and this is a time where families can attend a special service in their area or light a candle at 7:00 p.m., wherever they are, to honor their child.

Holidays can be difficult for many reasons, but especially for those whose child has died – at any age and from any cause.  Whether this is the first Christmas without your child or the 25th, you will never be the same without your son or daughter. Your child’s death has markedly changed you.  The grief you feel and the changes that take place as a result of your child’s death validate the significance, meaning, and love of your relationship with your child.

If you have lost a child or you know someone who has, I recommend this website as a source of hope and healing:  www.compassionatefriends.org.  There is also a place to post a remembrance note about your son or daughter. It’s one way a family can express their grief, share their memories, honor their child, and maybe even find new friends who can help them along this arduous journey.

The executive director of CF, Patricia Loder, wrote that the reason they do the Worldwide Candle Lighting is so that the child’s “light may always shine.”

What a beautiful picture of a child:  light; like a star’s light breaking through the darkness.

Let’s pray for the families that are grieving the loss of a child this holiday season. We can help carry their burden by praying for them, lighting a candle for their child, weeping with them, listening to them, and allowing them to grieve naturally. There is no time table and parents who’ve lost a child never ever “get over it.”  They need to grieve their incredibly deep loss for as long as it takes.

If you’d like, please use this space to post a remembrance note about your dearly loved and missed child.

A season of loss

Tim Jackson —  August 15, 2011 — 5 Comments

I haven’t written this blog for a couple of weeks.

I’ve been gone.

It’s been a rainy season for me and my family.

“When it rains, it pours,” was a saying my Grandma would often use when things were piling up and we were feeling overwhelmed. You know, like when when the muffler falls off the car, then the hot water heater sprouts a leak and floods half the basement, and the door on the toaster oven breaks and you have to jamb a pencil in the latch to make it work because you just spent what money you had on getting the items needed to get your kids prepared for the new school year.

You know what I mean.

Don’t you?

But those kinds of things aren’t life-changing. Frankly, they’re just plain annoying.

But what about when significant losses begin stacking up one on top of the other? That’s not just annoying. That’s overwhelming. Drowning or suffocating is more like it.

That’s been my summer so far.

My wife fell on April 29th, tearing all three hamstring muscles away from the bone on her right leg. Surgery was require to reattach them. Twelve weeks in a brace and no weight bearing, followed by 42 weeks of extensive physical therapy. Yep, that’s 54 weeks total recovery.

On May 13th my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died 3 weeks later on June 3 at 81 years of age. A shock to all of us since she seemed so healthy just 6 weeks prior to the diagnosis.

Then my dad began to fail. Alzheimer’s had been stealing his life away for the past 7 years. He didn’t know mom or any of us for most of the past 2-3 years. And in spite of the fact that we didn’t tell him about mom’s death, after 60 years of marriage, he somehow just seemed to know that his sole mate had gone home to heaven to await his arrival. And he didn’t waste much time. 8 weeks and one day later he arrived to greet her with a healed body and mind.

Yesterday I snapped at my 20-year-old daughter about something I thought she was negligent about. Her defenses shot up. We both felt the tension tighten. She called me on my “accusational” tone. She was right. And I knew it.

She asked me what was going on with me. I didn’t know, but soon I was reduced to tears. And I still didn’t know why.

Then it hit me: “I’ve got no emotional margins left. I’m depleted.Wrung out. Overloaded.” The losses have piled up around me. I just buried both of my parents within 2 months. My wife has begun a long road to recovery. And I feel buried emotionally.”

The journey through grief is a long one. Especially when it’s compounded by multiple losses. “Personal, painful loss forces a door open into the deep parts of our soul, exposing what which we’d just as soon not admit exists, let alone face”(p. 3). I believe that. I wrote that 20 years ago in a booklet on grief, How Can I Live With My Loss? Now I’m re-living it afresh.

Loss is as common as the air we breathe. But our journey through grief is unique to each of us. I’m on that journey. Maybe you are too. Let me reassure you with words from my Father that I find deeply encouraging and comforting in the middle of turmoil that is so disconcerting:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

“. . . because God has said,  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

What’s reassuring for me is that I’m never alone on this messy journey of grief after a loss. And neither are you if you’ve put your hope in the God who raises the dead.

I’m sure there will be more to come as I process what God is doing in me because of these losses. For now, knowing He’s always with me is what keeps me going.

 

 

The final movie in the Harry Potter series finally hit the theater this past weekend. I’ll admit, I’m a huge fan.

Although the series is a fantasy, the parallels to real life are stunning, especially the epic battle between good and evil.

Lord Voldemort, the powerful dark lord and Satan figure in the film, is trying to infiltrate and influence young Harry’s heart and mind. After one of Voldemort’s minions kills Harry’s God-father, the dark lord attempts to fill and inflame Harry with thoughts of murder and revenge. It’s part of his devilish plan to tempt Harry to join him in his darkness and ultimately own him.

At one climatic point in the series, near the end of The Order Of The Phoenix , Voldemort nearly has Harry convinced that he is just as dark and evil. He thinks he’s won. He thinks Harry is finished, so he begins to mock him as “weak.” As Harry is struggling, oh so close to giving into the dark lord’s influence, Dumbledore, Harry’s close mentor, says to him,

“Harry, it’s not how you are alike, it’s how you are not!”

Right then, Harry spots his closet friends and recalls the happy times he’s enjoyed with them. Suddenly, the strength to resist returns, and Harry says to Voldemort,

“You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love, or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

It’s one of those fictional moments that illuminates what the battle between good and evil is all about–love and restored friendship with others and God.

At the end of the The Order Of The Phoenix, after Harry has recovered from Voldemort’s vicious attack, Harry says to his friends,

“I’ve been thinking about something Dumbledore said to me. He said, ‘Even though we’ve got a fight ahead of us, we’ve got one thing that Voldemort doesn’t have…something worth fighting for.'”

Jesus declared, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” –John 10:10