Tuesday, July 28, 2015

a sunset song (in loving memory of Uncle Tom)

Before we went to Lake Michigan for vacation this year, we spent a few days on the cliff, at edge of eternity.

In hospital waiting rooms, crying openly, embracing frequently, we journeyed to the end of life in this life with my uncle. He was taken from us with such speed, it seems; given only three days to three weeks to live from the moment they said “cancer.”

Family came, fresh from the beach, with burned skin and red eyes. The air was thick with their warmth, their love, like summer humidity. As that harsh light on the cliff of eternity burned away so much that doesn't matter, we talked more freely about the things that do.

His wife would not leave his side. Those who love them both kept vigil with her. My dad stood with his arms crossed at the end of the bed, wet eyes. I went up next to him and leaned in heavy, and my sister did the same on the other side. We watched the horrible sunset of a life, together.

His wife wet his lips with a sponge; she held his hand; she moved the tubes and climbed into bed and held him close while she still could. Whether he had the strength to return the embrace or not, it didn't matter; she was breaking, too, but she gave what she had to her broken husband. He loved her, and she loved him, and they loved until the end.

During the last evening of the last day of his life on this dying earth, when goodbyes had been spoken, and there was nothing to do but wait, my sister sat at his bedside and did something ridiculous: s
he sang. She sang a cheerful song, a song of victory, and it didn't match the oppressive sadness in that dark room, it didn't line up with the suffering there. It was not a song inspired by the grim scene unfolding there... it was a song from beyond the cliff.



O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.


Oh, the emotions I felt as I stood and watched the ridiculous concert, the nearly insane words of light spoken in one of the darkest rooms possible! “Victory in Jesus,” sung over one who was losing the battle to cancer! Victory? Really? If anything in this world is defeat, is it not this, a man taken in his strength down to nothing, cancer in every cell of his bone marrow? Even as she sang, he groaned, then fell into deep morphine snores, only to be woken again by more pain. How can this, even this, be made into victory? And yet my sister, there singing, declared by her presence itself exactly how. That sister, who for years sought her own death in the dark rooms of addiction and rebellion, is now made alive in Christ, and here, on a deathbed, declaring his works of light in the darkness. Here is a girl who knows the works of the Lord, and knows there is no hopeless situation if His hand is at work.

When she finished, he gave a faint smile and a weary “yaaaaay!” Not many hours later, he was finished, too; finished with all work on this earth, finished with the days he'd been given here. He is now finished with breath, finished with cancer, finished with his motorcycle and projects and mowing his own lawn.

But is God finished? Or is there reason for hope, even now, even when he is gone over the cliff and we see him no more? We will keep singing, in hope, as we live out our own days until our final sunset. We will sing of this God who makes dry bones live, whose Jesus died for us and rose for us, and who promises to raise us, too. And it will sound ridiculous, and our feelings will sometimes be unable to join the song, but what does it matter? Our feeble flesh and our fickle feelings will not stop His hand in its gracious work.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there
The song of victory.


O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.


Father,
Victory seems so far off, and it is hard to wait, hard to believe while we wait and do not see. Gently turn our eyes to Jesus as we grieve. Gently comfort us in Your Words of promise. Let the harsh light we feel at the edge of the cliff burn away all that does not please you, and those things that do not matter. Fill us with faith towards you, and fervent love for each other, as we wait in hope for your coming in victory.


Especially uphold my dear uncle's family as they continue life in this broken place, now with the hole where he once was. Gently, Lord, help and comfort them and all who grieve.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.
view from the edge of eternity
(hospital window)



Thursday, July 2, 2015

running commentary

So, you’re a silent prayer. I was too, before kids. I was a silent hair-brusher and laundry-starter and weed-puller, too. But now, I am a Narrator.

Read about it at Katie Luther Sisters, and keep talking!
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