EXPERIENCE on the subject in question is, personally, in rather short supply, but I know it is the work that God is drawing me to. Sitting with the dying, as a pastor, imagining into what they are going through – the pain, the sorrow, the despair, the confusion, and for some, the hope – is a privilege. I know that being in the same position, sitting as a family member is surreal on a whole different dimension!
As I sat recently with a sixtyish gentleman, Travis (not his real name), and his wife, as he struggled to breath, move, and cough, he uttered the words, “I confessed Jesus as my Savior last week,” whilst clutching a small wooden cross in his left hand. His right hand had already reached for mine, and I held his right hand with both of mine. God’s love was communicated via our hands.
As I prayed a blessing over him, he and his wife wept. It wasn’t what I prayed, for in these sort of moments I always feel so inadequate, but then being ‘adequate’ isn’t the point. God has been journeying with Travis all his life. A minister’s visit can make a God encounter a little more real, as if death weren’t real enough already.
When Travis said penitently, “I’ve hurt so many people,” I had the opportunity to present the fact of God’s forgiveness before him – “But that’s just what God wants to hear,” I said. “He loves you so much,” I continued.
We can only imagine until we are there ourselves – and let’s respect those who’ve covered such a horrible journey: the anguish of dying a painful death – what it’s like. But we can very well imagine a dying person doing business with God.
Being on Hallowed Ground
I believe that being in the place where death is imminent is hallowed ground; ground graced by the angels.
As people approach their own mortality – and as family members do so, and how everyone contemplates how the living will live on – there are incomprehensible losses that overwhelm meaning. Our humanity cannot do anything but grapple with the ungraspable.
How can anyone there in a helping capacity be anything other than awed at the courage of people coming to terms with what is ungraspable? Coming to terms, then, is about simply having courage regarding what is interminably confounding.
How could I do anything to patronize these people who are dealing with such a calamity – and it is the fear of the Lord that keeps me on the straight and narrow. This, here, is hallowed turf!
Those in the forefront of the dying itself stand on this precipice before the Spirit of the living God. There is only admiration for their courage, for their grief, for their transcending of their flesh as they enter the Spirit’s realm.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.