“Perspective is everything.” I don’t know where I picked it up, but it is a phrase I find myself repeating a lot these days. Yesterday, as I prepared to make the half-hour drive to attend the funeral of my friend Pat, I remembered back to when she told me she had cancer, two and a half months ago. (Even then, that conversation was so remarkable that I decided to share Pat’s story with you in, A Healthy Death.) In that conversation, still shaken by the news of Pat’s battle that had been ongoing for three months, I found comfort and blessing as Jim (Pat’s husband) told me how they had decided to pray,
“This is what it boils down to, Kathie,
we are praying for HEALING or . . . for A HEALTHY DEATH!”
Since writing that post, I have thought often about writing its follow-up . . . hoping to write to you about Pat’s miraculous healing. Yet inwardly, I also wondered, “If You decide to take Pat Home, Lord, what would You have me write? What exactly does a healthy death look like?”
As I drove to the funeral home, all I could think about was the pain of separation being experienced by Pat’s family and friends. It was good to greet and feel the hugs of friends I had not seen for many years. It was also amazing to see the crowds of others, whom I had never met, but who also had been touched by Pat’s life. As I watched Pat’s family offer comfort and reassuring hugs to all who came, I was struck by how they reflected the love and strength of the One carrying them. This, I realized, was my first lesson on what a healthy death looks like–the Body of Christ ministering to one another.
The Service for Pat began with this simple story:
Around 125 A.D., a Greek by the name of Aristeides wrote to one of his friends, trying to explain the extraordinary success of the new religion, Christianity. In his letter he said, “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they accompany his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”
I was struck by how very much the Christian walk is about pilgrimage–then and now. The pain of death is nothing new. However for Christians, the sting of death has been taken away, because of the Hope we share from this life into the next. In fact, the second lesson on a healthy death, relates to it’s uniqueness to the Christian faith. There is no possibility of experiencing a healthy death apart from the saving work of Jesus in the heart, mind and soul of the individual.
During the Service, hearts were ministered to as some of Pat’s favorite songs and hymns were sung. I found the wisdom and perspective of the Scriptures shared to be strengthening and uplifting. Certainly tears were spilled and will continue for some time, as we remember Pat. However, as we rely on the Hope embedded in the Resurrection of Christ–promised to all who trust in Him–we are strengthened to persevere on this journey and into the next. What the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 reflects our third lesson on a healthy death: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
This morning, I thought about Pat as I remembered the words from an old hymn:
” . . . and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on!
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on!”*
The thought of Pat presently experiencing such freedom brought fresh delight to my soul. This rendition of Fernando Ortega’s, “What Wondrous Love Is This” is a favorite of mine. I offer it to those of you who may be suffering loss or who are facing uncertainty in your life right now. What does a healthy death look like? Take a moment to reflect on this question as you marvel in His Wondrous Grace. Truly . . . PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING!
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
All to His Glory!
*What Wondrous Love Is This, Author: Unknown, first published 1811.