Death and Life

Here it is the end of March and I’m finally posting again.  But I don’t really even know where to begin.

I skimmed back through a few of my most recent posts and I feel like I sound…not necessarily self-righteous, but like I have it all figured out.  These last few months have proven to me that I don’t.  In fact, I have so much to learn.

I mentioned in my post of November 4, 2012  that my best friend’s husband had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a brain tumor.  His prognosis, given by the doctors, was two months without treatment.  With treatment he could possibly last a year or two longer.  He chose not to be treated.  Everyone was praying for a miracle, for healing.  It was a very emotional two and a half months for my best friend and her family…and for me.  Fortunately, he was able to walk his daughter down the aisle at the end of December, but after that he went downhill fast from there.  My friend called me Sunday around 2:30 a.m. on the 20th of January.  I showed up around 3:00 and called an ambulance.  I was with her at the hospital when he passed away around 10:00 a.m. that same morning.

I’ve lost family members.  Close family.  My sister died following a failed liver transplant when she was just 21 and then a nephew died in a car accident also at the age of 21.  This was the first time I was physically present when someone actually died.  It was emotional, but oddly, also a relief.  The months leading up to his passing had been a strain mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.  It was very difficult seeing someone who had been a healthy, thriving person shrink away to a mere skeleton of a man.

What was even harder is that I work as receptionist in an oncology clinic.  We see the same patients over and over, so we have a tendency to get attached to them.  But we’re never there in the family’s home seeing what they go through taking care of a loved one and watching them in incredible pain and wasting away to nothing.  But the deaths of some of them are harder than others, because as I said, you get attached.

Yet, here I was not only working in the clinic, but spending my free time helping my friend and her husband in any way that I could.  I saw what they went through.  I was there when he died.  And I went back to work the next day.  Then I went with her to the funeral home to deal with all that morbid mess.  Then back to work and then to the funeral that Friday.  Then back to work where I have to see and deal with more people dying of cancer.

I feel terrible because I tried to be with my friend after her husband died.  I spent time with her not knowing how to comfort her, because truly you really can’t comfort someone who has lost the love of their life.

But I was also on an emotional overload myself.  I felt that if I didn’t distance myself that I would have a breakdown.  I don’t do well with emotional stuff.  I had been through nearly three months of it and I was getting to the end of my rope.   I was making stupid mistakes at work.  I couldn’t stand the smell of the hospital when I went to the cafeteria for lunch.  I was irritable and cranky.  We had patients who died and it upset me more than it normally would have or should have.  Working in such an environment, you have a tendency to develop a thick skin.  If you don’t, you can’t do the job.  Well, my skin was no longer thick.  I was mentally and emotionally beat down, and if it hadn’t been for the two week vacation in Arizona that we had planned for the end of February, first of March, I probably would have lost it.

It was a very good vacation.  Spent a lot of quality time with my husband and I came back feeling refreshed and ready to get back into work.  I’m not making the mistakes I was prior to my vacation and my skin seems to have thickened a bit.

I see death come through our doors at work every day.  It is a vicious, ghoulish evil that never should have entered the world.  But it did because of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  Every time it steals a life it tears a family apart.  It leaves unseen wounds that never quite seem to heal.  It changes people.

Have I been changed?  Yes, every time someone I loved or respected died, whether they be family members, friends, acquaintances, or even the patients who pass through our office.  I really can’t say in what way it has changed me.  I would like to say it has made me tougher, made my hide a little thicker.  But anymore, I can’t say that.  I feel the anguish that I know the families are going through, I feel their loss and I feel their sorrow.  So perhaps, it has made me softer, more compassionate.  At least, I hope it has.

Even though death is a constant, vivid, insidious reality in this world,  we have an over-comer whose name is Jesus, the son of God.  He is the pure unblemished lamb who took on death and conquered it by His own death and resurrection from the grave.  We no longer have to fear death for our reward is life when we believe in Jesus and what he did for us.  Although, we may die before the Lord comes, at least those of us who believe in the God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, have the promise of life everlasting.    “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1Corinthians 15:55.  You have been defeated by Jesus Christ once and for all on the cross.

And in the coming millennium when Jesus returns, we have this promise that “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  Rev. 21:4.

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