|The Gifts of Dying|
“…this fullness of experience is so necessary to our souls that perpetual springtime is not allowed.” C.S. Lewis
The seventh anniversary of my dad’s death just passed in January. He had terminal cancer and died one week after his 63rd birthday. It’s a tricky thing writing about some else’s death and the lessons learned from it. Sympathy can only take you so far down the road; holding a hand, praying, sitting through chemo day after day, monitoring medication, laughing and crying are about as close as a person can get without experiencing it. It was after all, ultimately my dad’s journey with God. But God, in His mercy, allowed me the privilege of experiencing my own journey along side my dad and I am grateful that I had eyes to see, ears to hear and hands to hold the gifts God had for me.
The gift of human life is from God.
Growing up in a Christian home was essential in forming my belief in the value of life from conception to natural death but when dad got cancer and became vulnerable, my convictions were tested. By reaching out to God in prayer I quickly came to see that God’s ways are higher than mine. He is trustworthy. Romans 8:28 tells us, and we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Accepting that life and death are gifts from God made my faith much richer and deeper and I was open in a new way to God’s will for my life.
The gift of our service brings comfort to the dying.
I was at a crossroads in my life before dad was diagnosed. As a stay- at- home mom whose kids were getting older, I was praying and asking God for a new direction of service in my life. Being drawn to the elderly and the dying for most of my life, I knew God would use me in this area me somehow but I had no formal training or close personal experience with death. I did however know that Matthew 7:11 tells us, God loves to give His children good gifts when we ask Him, and I had been praying and waiting expectantly for my prayers to be answered; funny how God works. I was able to bring comfort and support to my dad and he in turn was able to allow me a glimpse of how to serve the dying. God was providing for us both through the gift of service. My desire to come along side the elderly and dying became more intense and my dependence on the Lord more consuming.
The gift of our suffering brings glory to God.
I wasn’t the one who was physically suffering but I could see even in the midst of his battle, my dad was offering everything to the Jesus who was intimately acquainted with all of his infirmities. Seeing my dad lay all at the feet of his Lord and Savior only increased my desire to do the same. The gift of suffering is a beautiful thing when it is offered to God in trust and thanks and for His glory. I had turned a corner in beginning to understand God’s purpose for suffering and I wanted to share in this work even more with others who were dying physically and spiritually.
The gift of salvation is God’s ultimate gift to the world.
The Good News is that Jesus has conquered death and lives to give new life to those who believe in Him and turn from sin. This is the best gift we could ever accept or share with others no matter what comes our way. And now seven years later, I am a Hospice volunteer, have earned my Certified Nursing Assistant certification and I have a small elder care business. Through my dad’s example, I saw others turning to God and in a strange and beautiful way, I saw the blackness of cancer making God’s gifts of life, service, suffering and salvation radiant in my dad’s life and in mine. To God be the glory forever.
Pam Petersen is an elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho and serves on the PPL Board of Directors.