I can’t believe that it has been over a month now since I patted my sweet friend’s head as I said goodnight to her small frame on my couch. I can’t believe it has been over a month since I sat behind her in the hospital bed holding her body in the only position that was comfortable in those final hours.
And truth be told, in the late night hours alone with the Father on the cold, hard floor of my bathroom, I have beat my fists against the smooth tile and against my strong Father’s chest and I have sobbed it until the words won’t come, “I can’t believe she’s dead.”
We fought so hard.
It is her little boy’s sixth birthday. We had talked for weeks about the party we would have, with a cake, but that was when they still lived here, when his mother still lived. Instead, I drive across the bridge to where he is now being raised by his aunt and a kind neighbor. We bring the cake. We sing Happy Birthday and he is ok and the kids have fun and are happy. And as we drive away and all smile and wave, I cry.
I didn’t want the story to end this way.
I wrote the ending in my head and it was the ending where my friend gets better, becomes strong and healthy, and is able to move out with her children. It was the ending where they get to sign their names on the bottom of our table to be remembered as friends who lived here and fellowshipped with us and we would all cry happy tears as we served them their last meal before they headed out to their new life healthy and whole. In the ending I wrote, I didn’t have to look 4 children under the age of ten in the eyes and tell them that their mother died in the night as I bounce their baby sister on my knee to keep her quiet. In my ending I didn’t spend every hour of 5 consecutive days fighting and fighting and fighting for a mother to get well and end up clinging to my best friend as we lower a body into a casket.
But His voice comes strong, steady, clear, “Child, this is not the end.”
And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed and they were seeking to bring him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when He saw their faith He said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
First, He forgave their sins. First, He secured the eternal. Because really, what is a few more years of walking in comparison to an eternity of worship and sins all forgiven?
Death is not the end. Then end was when He hung on a cross and rose from a tomb and I asked for life, and Life is what He gave. Better, glorious, eternal Life. In those final hours, I held my friend’s head, and I watched her chest heave as her soul first laid eyes on His face and I could nearly feel His breath on mine. And no, I do not know His ways, but I know Him. I know Him. And I do not just lay my friends before Jesus for physical healing but that they might know Him too, that they might be saved. And Katherine, she knows Him.
We fought so hard. And still we won. He won.
This week I take a two-month-old baby to the doctor to confirm that he has a terminal skin condition that causes burn-like blisters to cover his entire body and will ultimately lead to his death. There is no treatment. I wrap and dress the wounds because I know how. Because keeping them clean will prevent infection and anemia from blood loss and prolong his life. But I recognize that prolonging his life will ultimately prolong his suffering.
I take a grandfather from our community in for a check-up. Cancer. It is everywhere. They give him a few months, weeks maybe. We try to make him comfortable, and keep him company. We tell stories of a Father who would send a Son, the only sacrifice that could absolve all this sin, the only blood that could wash us snow white. But part of me still wants to fight. Still wants to research, still wants to explore other options, still will not believe that this is it.
There is something so sacred about the fight for life. I believe that God wants us to fight. There is a focus that comes from being so close to death, a clarity, a purpose. My heart that still fought for Katherine and believed for her healing even when my mind knew there were no more options cries out that this can’t be it, this cannot be the end, there must be something else.
This is the audacity of hope.
We fight and we wait and a watching world says, “Why hope for life in a world of death?” And we know the answer. My heart is right. This isn’t it, this is not the end, and there is something else. His life is better.
Our fight is not for this life, our fight is for eternity.
We wanted to let you know that our friend went to be with her Maker. We wanted to thank you for praying. And we wanted to encourage you that the fight on this side of heaven is not over yet. But we look at the pain and the suffering all around us and strange as it is, our hope only grows. We know Him and so we lift our heads to the Life-Giver and say, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and our hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
Here’s to hope, friends, a hope that does not disappoint. Keep fighting for the Gospel, keep fighting for Life, because He has already won.