The inevitable has happened. My beloved brother-in-law passed on Sunday evening. Although it was expected, it was sooner than anticipated and not without suffering at the end despite the best efforts of hospice.
It has been beautiful to see the love that has made this journey the least bit tolerable. The care given by the home health aides has been phenomenal with them checking on his health even when not their day to work. So many family members and friends have been here to help and love on him and support each other, not to mention his loving wife by his side through the end.
What was most transfixing were the deep looks of love between him and her. They were not just superficial, but rather, deep in the sense of his sharing with her not only his feelings, but also, his experiences. Through his slight movements but deep gaze we saw a glimpse of what he saw, that world beyond the one we could see. There were so many moments of his gaze not on us, but rather, at something we couldn’t see, and these looks were the most enigmatic – unknown but not frightening. Perhaps he was seeing the extraordinary love he was about to experience when no longer encumbered by his unresponsive body in pain. Perhaps when someone leaves this dimension and enters the next those around him experience a small taste of what will soon be our dear one’s new home.
Over the weekend I had arranged for my nephew to be at my sister’s home to cover for me so Sid and I could visit our 8 month old grandson and our kids in Chicago. After that my sister’s children were planning to visit so I was planning to come back to Massachusetts and Maine while they were there to give them some close family time. The hospice nurse felt we were looking at a before Christmas time frame and that death was not imminent. I had planned to be at my sister’s side when that time would come so a brief time away seemed possible, especially since he was doing well when I left.
Definitely there was my plan, their plan, and God’s plan as our dear one slipped away on Sunday evening while I was in Chicago. What showed me the power of His Presence in it all occurred the night he died.
I had my cell phone ringer turned off since Sid and I were watching a movie on Netflix with our kids. When I looked at my phone after the movie ended I saw that my sister had called, so I called her back. After an hour of trying, I then tried my nephew. When neither returned my call I feared the worst had happened. Ultimately my sister called to tell me that yes, her husband had just passed. She continued that he had started to have trouble breathing several hours earlier, which was when my phone showed a call from my sister. The inexplicable part of the story is that she did not call me. Yet somehow, right when he was starting his final distress, I, in Chicago, received a phone call seemingly from my sister, bringing me again intimately into the drama unfolding so many miles away.
As I processed this, and tried to lift my spirits, I was so overwhelmed by the reminder of HaShem’s presence. If my sister didn’t call me, then how could this happen, and with such perfect timing? Comfort poured over me, at least at that moment. My love for my departed loved one and my sister had somehow brought HaShem even closer to all of us.
Our Abba’s overwhelming love of us frames the individual love stories we each bring to the picture of losing a loved one, an inescapable reality for all of us at some point. Our Abba modeling for us sacrificial love in giving us His Son, and Yeshua giving His life for us show us the way to love others. Being there for each other, overcoming challenges and being willing to do so, prioritizing the other, loving selflessly are the ultimate ways we show the power of love, the way we bring His Presence palpably into our lives. As He loves us, so do we love others. As we love others, so do we love Him.
No need to wait until a person’s final hours to live in this way. Experiences such as this are just reminders of how fleeting are these days. All the more reason to love harder right now.