Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When a Slow Death Scares the Life Right Out of You

I have received messages and calls and posts on my Facebook page about what I think about the beautiful young woman, Brittany, in Oregon who has brain cancer and plans to legally end her life on November 1st.  My own precious daughter, Christina, faced a similar brain tumor challenge and left this world on June 13th, 2013.
Brittany is giving voice to what so many of us think about—how do we want to die? 
Most of us hope we die peacefully in our sleep. 
Christina used to say before each brain surgery, “I’m not afraid of dying during surgery.  Anesthesia to Jesus—it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Other people just hope that their death comes quickly. 
I personally do not know anyone who wants to die slowly and painfully.  Brittany's position does not surprise me.  Most of us feel we would not be able to cope with such a reality.
Jesus himself prayed in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me.”  The cup of his crucifixion was not taken from Him and that changes everything for us.

During Christina's 5 1/2 years of living with brain cancer, she had many conversations about how a brain cancer patient dies.  It wasn't a very encouraging picture.  When Christina learned that her brain tumor had returned with a vengeance and her time was limited, we were also told that she had one larger tumor near her brain stem that should cause her to loose consciousness and shut her systems down very quickly.  I haven’t told many people that we had a little “high five” celebratory moment because we thought she was going to have the kind of death that she wanted.  Quick and painless.

It was not to be.  Instead, she had 11 weeks on hospice.  I have recorded much of those 11 weeks in  this blog.  There were some very difficult times. 
She had an evening of discouragement because she thought she was letting people down and causing misery.
More than once, she thought she was losing her mind.  And that was something that terrified her.
A few times, the pain got out of control.
She was sad on the days she realized that she had not fed Isaiah even one time—someone else was caring for him.


If Christina had left us quickly, here are some of the things we would have missed--

Seeing Doug care for her so tenderly.  He kept track of her medicine, her rest, her food and so many, many other things.  He was the very picture of the "till death parts us" kind of love.

The friends and family who came from all over the world to spend a little time with her.

The endless supply of love and food and anything else we needed.

The final “Daddy-daughter” date to her favorite restaurant.

Her remarkable sense of humor and ability to make us laugh.

Christina’s visions.

Hearing the angels sing.

Watching her spirit come alive while her body was fading.

Hearing her pray.

Hearing her tell Jesus, “I surrender.  I surrender everything.” And knowing it was about surrendering herself to be cared for.

Hearing her last, barely audible, “I love you, Mom.”

And we would have missed that amazing moment when Doug whispered to her, “Christina, you have fought so well.  Thank you for fighting.  You can be done now.” Within the minute, she took her last breath.

You see, we cannot know the ways that God will meet us in our deepest need.  We cannot predict the ways He will make us stronger, or make us wiser.  Until we have to walk right into our greatest fear, we have no idea that God has very good reasons to say, “Fear Not”.  Jesus conquered death on the cross and it is by His power that we walk through the impossible things this life holds.

I would never, ever trade away those last 11 weeks.  We saw Jesus.  We saw beauty.  We saw strength and courage. We were walking on Holy Ground.