John 19:30 “When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
2 Timothy 4:7 (Paul writing to Timothy) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”
In the case of Jesus in the first verse, He knew the exact moment when He was going to die, but, as we know, He still had much more to do after He “gave up His spirit” and spent the next three days in the tomb. That statement, however, brought an end to His earthly suffering.
As for Paul, his last day was still in the future, but he wrote with satisfied confidence to Timothy that he had run the race God had asked him to run, and he had done it well.
I have now watched 5 parent figures’ lives draw to a close. My mother in January of 1986, my father-in-law in October of 1997, my mother-in-law in July of 2011, my stepmother in February of 2016, and my daddy in July of 2016. Three of those — mom, Steve’s dad, and my stepmother June — came running up to their last day at full speed.
A few hours before my mother’s brain aneurysm, she was up baking cookies for a bridal shower she was helping to host for a girl at the Children’s Home. She LOVED baking and hosting parties. Steve’s dad was out fishing with a good friend when their boat suddenly struck a stationery barge knocking them both into the water where they drowned. Mr. Pearson LOVED fishing on the Tennessee River and spending time outdoors with his friend. June prepared one of my dad’s favorite dishes for lunch and then spent several hours laughing and talking with her daughter and granddaughter before a growing headache became unbearable. June LOVED spoiling my dad and savoring time with her family.
Steve’s mom, better known to us as Grannie, lived to be 86. She was smart, resourceful and extremely creative. But, in her last years, she was unhappy and in considerable pain with back and heart issues. She kept her full mental capacities until the end, but sadly, we couldn’t convince her to choose to be happy and to enjoy her days.
Dad grieved deeply after June died. We helped him move to North Alabama to be nearer family members, but he refused to settle into his new surroundings. Then on June 29, he learned that he had myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), very similar to leukemia. His first chemo treatment was on July 11, and he died on July 28 at the age of 88.
So much more could be written about each of these 5 people, and I keep trying to sort through the lessons God taught me by watching each one of them.
I doubt there’s a person alive who wouldn’t choose a sudden, unexpected death over prolonged pain and debilitation. And, I know we all pray that we won’t lose our ability to think clearly. But, the fact remains that we don’t get to choose. Instead, we have to live each day as intentionally, as productively, and as joyfully as it is in our power to do so. As I continue to process the how-to’s of all this, let me share what Steve has written on the subject. Here are links to his 3 blog posts: here, here and here.