Saturday, September 26, 2009

Eat Right. Be Fit. Die Anyway.

This title was a T-shirt inscription that I saw when taking my mother-in-love to have a carotid ultrasound. It reminds us that life is fatal. As one wag put it "You'll never get out alive." Or as the Bible says "it is appointed to man once to die…"

If any of you followed the link above, you know I left out part of that quotation (of course, the ellipsis tells you something was omitted, but the link tells you what was left out). In my not always humble opinion, the omission is the whole point. My first wife died several years ago from ovarian cancer – that is what the death certificate says. Each of us dies from something even though G*d installed a healing program in our bodies called the immune system. The body is fully capable of repairing minor damage (broken bone, laceration, infection) on its own as long as the immune system is intact. At some point, through lack of "the will to live" or perhaps through a direct attack on the system or from the cumulative effects of life ("old age") or fear, the immune system stops doing its job and something will be listed as the "cause of death." When the spirit departs the body, the body dies.

I don't mean for this to be a downer. I thought of using Dave and Blarney (Dave and Blarney Discuss Life and Death Part 1), and I still might follow the Health Care series with that as kind of a natural segue. But first I wanted to explain how I got there. When my first wife died, we were attending a "Charismatic" church that believes in the today healing power of God. Most Christian churches believe that it is G*d's will for people to be well (why do Baptists build hospitals and churches offer prayers for the sick?). We prayed for healing, we searched the scriptures for healing, we listened to tapes of healing, and she died anyway. I'm sure there was more we could have done. I'm sure there was more I could have done. She lived two years longer than the oncologist thought she would, but she wearied of the fight. She told me while we were in the hospital for what turned out to be the last time "I want to go home." Thinking that she meant our earthly home, I was calling to make arrangements for hospice care when she slipped out. Even though the doctors made an effort to revive her, she was gone. Earlier she had seen a vision of people dancing a "funny dance" as she called it. They were in the corner of the room, but of course not visible to me. And then she was gone. I was devastated. Why had she died despite our and the physician's best efforts? At the funeral the pastor was honest enough to say "I don't know."

I can tell you now that I was angry at G*d, angry at myself, angry at the "faith" people, just angry. Fortunately for me, my son was living with us. He had been a great help through the battle, assisting with moving Sharon from the upstairs bedroom to the family room and back again. He had prepared a bed for Sharon to sleep in when we went home from the hospital. But that wasn't the home to which Sharon had referred. If not for him and my granddaughter, Brianna, I might not have survived the next several months. We would weep together as we watched home videos. She would come and sit on my lap and we would hug. I needed that. The two inside dogs were a great comfort to me also. We had prayed and Sharon had died anyway. Some reporter had once told Oral Roberts "I happen to know that you prayed for so and so and she died." His reply was "Son, everybody I ever prayed for dies at one time or another." Oral Roberts never claimed to heal anyone – G*d healed through him. People criticized him for building a hospital, but he understood that all healing comes from G*d. And I understand that, too. G*d is the source, first of the immune system, then of the knowledge of the body granted to doctors, and of the gifts of healing. For the sensitivities of my Jewish readers, I omit the vowel just as the early writers presented the YHWH without vowels.

And here is the beginning point: either G*d exists or He doesn't. I can respect the agnostic who is not sure. The atheist is a conceited
fool. For most people there is ample evidence of G*d's existence in nature. The atheist, in effect, says "I have seen all there is to see and know all there is to know and G*d is nowhere to be found." In his arrogance, the atheist claims the attributes of G*d for himself (omniscience, omnipresence, etc.). He is his own god. So let me state that I know I am not smart enough to be YHWH, but that I believe He exists. I have seen His hand on my life and the lives of others. I also believe the Bible is His word and that it means what it says. I have learned, too, that a walk with YHWH is an intensely personal journey. From sin to faith, each person is on his or her own (I think it no coincidence that the center of "sin", "faith" and "believe" is "I"). No one sins for someone else, and no one has faith for someone else. And no one knows the condition of another's heart. What I say may help you (I hope it does), but the thoughts come from me.

Well, no they don't. I probably have never had an original thought in my life. What I mean to say is these are the thoughts that help me. They come from YHWH or other people (through books or messages), and I have internalized them. After this life, there is another and left to my own devices I would not have a pleasant one. Thank YHWH for Jesus. I wish I could hold myself up as a paragon of virtue. I really want to be one, but I am not. I know me and I know my faults and my failures – as a father, a husband, and a person. Paul thought he was the chief of sinners, but I think I have him beat. I need a Savior and thank YHWH, I have one. I was a sinner, I got saved by grace and I am a child of the living G*d. I still fail, but I can go on and (in the words of the Army) be all I can be in Christ, the Messiah. And when I die (which I surely shall someday in spite of diet, exercise, and prayer) I have the expectation of a great afterlife. I hope you do, too.


Hawkeye® said...

Hello Rick,
That was certainly an intensely personal and emotional article. I must admit that I had tears welling up in my eyes.

In the aftermath of tragedy and sorrow, I'm sure it's natural to feel that there is more you could have done. But that is second-guessing yourself and God.

It's good to admit your anger and frustration. Those are real feelings, and we should never be in a state of denial about reality.

We may not like such feelings, or believe that they make us "sinful" in some way, but that is not the case. When we have spent a good portion of our lives believing that God is "Almighty", it is only natural to ask why He could not use His great power to prevent this tragedy.

Questioning God does not make us "sinful", it merely proves that we are people of "faith" and that our faith is being tested. How we react to such testing is the important thing. God will understand if we question Him, but then trudge on. Questioning God and then rejecting Him, is another matter altogether.

Jesus said "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." We could extend the context of Jesus' statement by saying "Blessed are those who have not seen (healing) and yet believe," or perhaps, "Blessed are those who have not seen (a life without sorrow) and yet believe," or even "Blessed are those who have not seen (prosperity) and yet believe."

If you yet believe, and it seems you do, then you are "Blessed" my friend. I pray for your peace of mind and continued blessings...

Pat's Rick© said...

Hawkeye,Thank you for your thoughts. It was the first time I felt comfortable talking about Sharon's death on the blog. Yes, I do believe, and I will probably post a part two before I let Dave and Blarney have at it.

As I said in the article, I did not intend it to be a downer, but an uplift. Thank you for your encouragement.

camojack said...

"Paul thought he was the chief of sinners, but I think I have him beat."

Paul (when he was still Saul) used to persecute Christians; I somehow doubt you've done that. We all tend to beat ourselves up sometimes...those of us with a conscience, at any rate. I do not know you in the "real" world, but feel as though I've come to know you as well as one might through your words on "Da 'Net" (as I like to call it).

I think you're one of the good guys...