I have not posted over the weekend. Life got messy, really messy really fast. My grandmother, who is in her eighties, is nearing the end of her life, and her family is having to confront end of life issues, such as how long do you continue extraordinary measures to sustain life? And what kind of existence does she have if we continue them? None of those questions are easy, and all of them have become necessary in the span of a couple of days. So there has been a lot of wrestling internally and externally in my family. No one wants my grandmother to die, but everyone will die eventually. So those two realities duel in the arena shaped by her current state of progressive illness and total loss of cognitive function. It leaves us wondering, where is God in all this? I know God is here, with us and for us, but with all the rapidly changing circumstances, I have to pause to see where I can sense God at work. When I did, I was astonished to see all the ways and means God was being merciful and good to us, even my grandmother.
In a world where people get sick and death can be staved off almost indefinitely, more and more we are empowered with some control over the life and death of our loved ones. There was a time when we did not keep people alive with heat blankets, hydration IVs, and food pegs when they could no longer chew and swallow food. Now we have to decide when to withdrawal those things, and wrestle with the real impact they will have. I constantly ask myself where we are being merciful, and where we are being stubborn. Sometimes they look and feel the same, and other times they are far removed from one another. Then it struck me that God was very present in our conversations that centered around honoring our beloved matriarch, ensuring that she did not suffer just to prolong her time on earth even if she was not cognitively able to appreciate it. This good Christian woman spent her life in the labor of love, and she deserves to rest from those labors, rest in God, and suffer no more. Yes, we will suffer for a while when she is gone, but illness robbed us of her in many ways years ago. In death, she shall be restored in a way that medical science can never hope to achieve. God can and will do what we cannot. To abide in the peace and love that is the Lord until the day of Resurrection must surely be one of the greatest experiences a person can ever have. It is a place where there is no pain, suffering, sorrow, or mourning. While I would never actively kill my grandmother, not even in the name of mercy, I do not wish to keep her from that rest in God any longer.
My memories of her from a time before the dementia and physical illness are strong, and filled with gratitude to God. I got to have this amazing woman in my life for decades, and her impact will outlive her mortal form. God is merciful to let us have memories as a salve on our wounds of mourning, and as a means of keeping their legacy alive when they pass from this life. Those memories motivate me to live as she lived, to model my faith in the way I treat others with kindness and dignity, and to speak openly and honestly about my love for and belief in Christ Jesus. God was merciful to grant her to this world, and I benefited from that, and now others should benefit from that relationship, too. As my weekend became overwhelmed with decisions, discussions, gut wrenching realities, and sorrowful good byes, I found God merciful in the presence of my family, the ability to speak openly and honestly with one another, and the promise of reunion at the Resurrection. I have no doubt that my grandmother will be counted among the sheep. By the grace of God, I pray that I will be, too, and we will be together in the Kingdom come. For now, as this drama we call death plays out, I cling to the hope of Christ and the salvation from eternal death in the cross. I hear God in the comforting words of others, and the assuring presence of my loved ones. I see God at work in the great serendipity that emerges when we don’t have to make some painful decisions because nature makes some for us. There is mercy all around us, and it flows forth through miraculous means and willing vessels from God in heaven. When things get messy, I can say with great conviction and all honestly that God responds with mercy. My response should be to react to any and every mess likewise.