My husband, son, and I had just enjoyed an afternoon at a beautiful Cape Cod beach, letting the waves wash away our sadness after the recent death of my father-in-law. My mother-in-law had died suddenly a year before, and we were still trying to orient ourselves to their absence.
When I put in a call to my widowed 89-year-old father back home in Michigan to share with him the beauty of our day, his phone rang and rang. So I contacted my sister. "Dad's in the hospital," she said. And so began another good-bye.
Diagnosed with a fast-acting terminal cancer, my father told me, "I'm tired of this country," early in his decline. Further along, he asked, "Why is it taking so long?" His lifelong faith in Jesus as Savior had blossomed into a full-blown longing to join Jesus in heaven. He was ready to go.
I struggled with mixed emotions. While our family accepted Dad's decision to forego treatment, we had to ready ourselves for the ordeal of death.
Feeling dazed, I sought peace through prayer. "Lord, I don't want to let my father go," I lamented. "But I know he's ready, so I release him to you. Show me how to help him through this, even though it pains me."
I pondered the strange mix of pain and hope dying in Christ brings. It reminded me of childbirth. Both involve an ordeal of unknown durationyet in both, the ordeal is limited because of the joy of new life at the end. There was my key to helping my dad. I could look at dying in a new wayas labor and delivery into eternal life!1