Life and Death

I am sitting in a hospital room, listening to the consistent beeping of some kind of monitor that is hooked up to my 91-year-old father. He is resting quietly, but the repetitive, high-pitched sound is a constant reminder that we are indeed in a hospital room and he is not here because of his good health. Actually, he and my mother came to the ER a few days ago, under the direction of their doctor, to have a few tests run. My dad had not been feeling well and they wanted to have a few things checked out. It seems that the ER is the fastest way to make that happen. So they checked in and the tests began. They had never intended to be here very long, so my mother didn’t bring all his plethora of medications – one of which was for his blood pressure. So near the end of the day, his blood pressure spiked and that was quickly followed by two Grand Mal seizures – an experience he has never had before in his 91 years of life.

It was the following morning that I walked into the room and found my father lying in an ICU room, all the color drained from his frail body, his breath coming in shallow fits and starts. He didn’t look good. He wasn’t exactly coherent and I don’t think he realized who I was. We couldn’t really talk, so I was left to watch and wait, along with my mother and brother. At a moment like that, you can’t help but think about the inevitable reality and unavoidable possibility of death. My brother and I talked about it a great deal during those hours together. The ironic thing is that he and I had taken my mom and dad to the funeral home just the day before to finalize all their burial plans, never anticipating that we might have to utilize them much sooner than we had hoped or anticipated. We know full well that our father, in his ninth decade, is closer to death than ever before, but we are in no rush to see him go. He is our hero and role model. He is a godly saint who loves the Lord, lives his life according to the Scriptures and is the consummate picture of a prayer warrior. My brother made the comment that he believed our dad could hear heaven calling. He longs to be with Jesus. He has served long and well. He has been a faithful servant of the Lord for a very long time. He has long been retired from ministry, but has never stopped studying the Bible and learning new truths every day. And yet, he no longer has an audience, except for his faithful wife of nearly 68 years, our mother, Libby. Being a former pastor, my dad is used to having an audience. His life has been lived around delivering the Word of God to the people of God, week in, week out. Now, in the dusk of his life, he has few opportunities to stand behind a pulpit and preach a sermon. So he reads his Bible regularly, making notations in the margins, underlining meaningful verses, and circling key words and phrases. His Bible is well-used, covered in ink of varying colors – a testament to the intensity and regularity of his study. He has little to live for, except his loving wife and extended family. He is torn between staying here and going home. And for my father, home is heaven. That is where his heart is and has been for a long, long time.

So I found it fascinating when my devotional reading for this morning had me in 1 Corinthians 15. Here is part of what I read:

“What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.” – 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 NLT

That reminded of another passage from the pen of Paul:

“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies, we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has give us his Holy Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5y NLT

Those two passages reminded me that life is a tenuous tight-wire dance between the temporal and the eternal. What we are experiencing here is a mere shadow of what is to come. These bodies are insufficient for what God has in store for us. No matter what kind of shape we are in or how many years we’ve logged on this planet, out physical bodies, in their current state, are not adequate for eternity. But Paul reminded me that my dad will one day receive a new body. He will be transformed, either as a result of death or the Lord’s return. But his dying body “will be swallowed up by life.” And whether I like to admit it or think about it, his body is dying – as is mine and yours. God’s work in us will not be complete until He equips us with our eternal bodies. At that point, our transformation will be complete and our glorification will be a reality and no longer just a hope.

Even as I sit here typing, my dad is showing signs of improvement. Perhaps God is not quite done with him yet. He must still have work for him to do, prayers to pray, individuals with whom he must share the Gospel, boldly and unapologetically. But it is comforting to know that my dad will one day have a new body. He will no longer groan and sigh. He won’t need a cane any longer. His arthritis and shingles will be gone. He will exchange this temporary, worn out tent for a new, permanent body that will come with an eternal guarantee.

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2 comments

  1. Lori Skjong-Nilsen says:

    Hi Ken, We should have a cup of coffee sometime soon. I know exactly what you are going through. I have many musings of the life and death kind. I have ushered my mom, sister (best friend) and father to heaven in the last 3 years. I’m worn. I’m changed. Too much to put into words, but so spiritually powerful! Hang in there. Stig and I care for you deeply. Let us know how we can be present for you!

  2. Kristy says:

    How blessed I am to have you for my uncle and such a good soon to his dad, thank you for wiring about all of this, it meant so much to me to read this, love you and our family so much!
    Love from your niece Kristy

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