The Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Those who walk in the dark do not know where they going."
~ John 12: 35
"He told me I was going to die, and he wouldn't even look me in the face," the angry woman cried aloud with me after having gone through eighteen months of cancer treatments. The doctor, she felt, had become "her friend."
"I did everything he wanted me to try, but when it came time to tell me that I was still going to die, he couldn't even look me in the eye to tell me."
The pain that she was feeling was evident. Over the past two years she had shared her struggles, made sacrifices to follow every request, and missed important milestones in the lives of her children with the hope that she would survive and live a full and productive life. "I don't really know what I thought would happen. I guess I hoped that somehow I would be whole again and able to do all the things I once did."
Each day I encounter people who have already "been through so much," as I often hear. Meeting people at the end of their life is often surrounded by so many feelings, often regrets, and "what if's?" They carry buckets that are full of holes that once contained lists of things that the person "hoped to do," in their lifetime.
I'm always grateful when I meet the person who acknowledges that they have lived a full, long life, with many friends, family members who love them, and often a faith community that serves as both a source of support and encouragement. I'd like to say that those people outnumbered the "other people I meet," but for most of the people they are simply, "not ready to die."
Growing up in a farming community, I knew a lot about the circle of life. Whether it be the seasons surrounding crops, raising cattle or other livestock for food, or simply the loss of those in our small community. During my years attending a small county high school, death visited classmates, loosing one to a car wreck, then two brothers, when an auger they used for grain struck a power line. We encountered droughts and floods. Good seasons where we could afford additional things for our family, or the Christmas I remember walking behind a pick up truck in a field already frozen from winter, looking for ears of corn that the combine missed so that we could afford to buy gifts, while the ground "crunched," below our feet as we walked.
I could hear the woman's pain as she retold the timeline of diagnosis and treatment, and then again the words, "You're going to die."
It replayed in her mind, like a slow-motion replay of a game that was lost because of one mistake, or bad call. She was so focused on what she felt like that she had lost to recognize the months her diligence in her treatment had gained her. When she shared that her original diagnosis only gave her three months to live, and yet this was now almost two years ago, she began to turn from "the end," to what blessings had actually emerged.
While I could not explain why the doctor didn't look her in the eyes to tell her that she was going to die, I did encourage her to reach out to him to share what she was feeling. I shared that he had already learned so much from the treatments that she pushed through, that he could also learn from how she was feeling now.
Paul writes, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6 - 7)
Often when we encounter "the end," or the sudden loss, we can't help but focus on what "might have been," or want to find something that we can point to as the root cause of the situation. Through it all, we are still being reminded to stop and to pray. Sometimes it is simply too much, and that is when we need one another.
Once again I am reminded that the will of God will never lead us to where God's grace will not sustain us, or where we fail to remain in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.