My sister in law was called home this month. Suffering from vascular dementia for many years; it was a long goodbye. A talented musician, a gifted nurse, and a loving wife, mother and grandmother her life which had been filled with joy and purpose was reduced to imprisonment in both mind and body.
Not an easy thing to live with. Not an easy thing to watch.
Good doctors prescribed every treatment currently known. But the disease ruthlessly advanced despite whatever war they waged against it. At the end, we struggled with keeping her alive at all costs to letting her go at our cost. Are we guilty of giving up too soon or were we holding on despite God calling her home?
I began to wonder – When does medicine go from being from God to playing God?
For me it’s when we become unable to cure the disease but continue to treat the symptoms caused by the disease knowing that we are keeping our loved one alive but not living. It is when we take our focus from God’s will to our will. It’s when we treat the patient without regard for their life, but more about the monetary gains, the accolades from personal gains as medical providers and the need to play God for self-empowerment. It’s when it becomes about “us” and not “them”.
In my mother’s ten year battle with metastatic breast cancer she fought until there were no more medical options. We had used all the medical insights and guidance possible but the side effects of the disease were slowly and agonizingly destroying her body. At that point, she was war torn, tired and ready to be with God. We stopped praying for God to cure her and began to ask Him to take her home.
It is so incredibly difficult to know what to pray for. We feel guilty wanting our loved one to remain with us. We feel even more guilt wanting God to end the suffering we are witness to.
As I wrestle with this question I dig deep into my faith. I find solace in God’s word as I pray for guidance and “a peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Prayer allows me time to gather my thoughts and insights to make this shift from holding on for fear of living life without the one I love to letting go, celebrating their life on earth and their going home to God. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to live and a time to die. From the moment we are born; we are making our way to a new life in Christ. Trusting God allows me to accept my loss, celebrate the life well lived and rejoice in the spirit reborn.
My sister in law was a beautiful soul. In the 41 years I was blessed to call her sister I never heard her say an unkind word about anyone (God knows I needed a good example). I take comfort in knowing she lives on in her children and grandchildren. She will be forever etched in our hearts.
But my greatest comfort is knowing she is free and has been made whole. Halleluiah!
John 11:26 …and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”