My brother-in-law died today. He was surrounded by so many people: cousins, children, their spouses and grandchildren until the ICU waiting room was full. He was a tough old guy with a quick temper, but many people loved him. Before he passed, I went to see if my sister needed anything, and was accepted into the fold in spite of my hesitancy of intruding. I asked my sister how she was doing, and she recounted the many ways she saw God’s hand moving here and there, weaving her husband’s care so lovingly and wisely. I shared how I had experienced the same thing with my husband during a recent year when he was very ill. The same thing occurred as I was recovering from open-heart surgery. If medical treatment fell apart in one location, He moved circumstances to another place where the correct treatment resumed. He monitored my health.
I saw my sister later this evening after her husband died, and she described his beautiful death. Those seemed strange words from a woman who loved this man for many years, but I understood as she described how he had become very calm and peaceful that last day after difficult episodes of pain and confusion earlier in the week. With his family standing around the bed, he quietly breathed a few last breaths as his heart stopped beating. She knew he had been spared a hard death with chemo treatments that offered little hope. We had prayed for comfort and mercy, and we received it.
At one time I worked in hospice as a nurse’s aide. I saw how the beloved children of God died one kind of death and the unsaved another kind. When one man died, it was as though the gates of hell opened at the moment of his death. I’m pretty sensitive about spiritual things, and I felt and sensed darkness, and a gut-wrenching evil pass out of that room. Earlier the man’s relatives had left the hospital because he was cursing and violent. I shuddered and felt unclean for a moment.
In contrast, a woman had put herself in a coma for a month before her death. (Speculation was that she didn’t want to deal with her terminal illness. There was no reason why she wasn’t awake except for the fact she didn’t want to be.) I gave her a bath that morning before her husband came in, and she was all settled in for the day. It was as though she waited until he got there, and she died peacefully. At the time, I thought God had surely orchestrated her death with all the music playing in heaven and angels singing. It as a beautiful death.
I can’t say this happens every time with everyone, but I do know we are promised:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Death doesn’t have to be an ending, but a beautiful beginning.