Hospice (def.) - 1. a lodging place for travelers (wordnet.princeton.edu)
2. providing comfort and support for patients with terminal illnesses. (Webster)
Until recently, I never once heard the word hospice without feeling a stab of fear in my heart. Just the word itself conjured up visions of death and suffering in my mind. Hospice just sounded like a death sentence. Finality. The end.
When my husband first told me that he had been asked to become the hospice chaplain for our parish and the neighboring parish, I was a little disturbed by it. I can remember telling him that I didn't know how he could even think about doing it. It just seemed like it would be so depressing. So heartbreaking. So sad.
The truth of the matter is that it can be all those things. It is depressing. It does break your heart and it certainly is sad. But it is more than that as well. It is also an awesome ministry. It is a way to minister to patients and their families. It is a huge opportunity to share Jesus with those who need Him in a very big way.
The small town we live in is where my husband was born and raised. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. We've lived here for over 20 years now so it's really my town, too. In the year or so that he has worked with hospice, he has personally known all but a handful of his patients. Some of them just acquaintances and some of them close friends.
Today, I went with him to see his newest patient. She is 54 years old and he has known her almost all their lives. She taught my oldest girls in middle school. Our son-in-laws worked together. One of her daughters was a customer of mine in the insurance business and I grew to love her dearly.
Short of a miracle, she will be on hospice until she goes home to be with Jesus. Short of a miracle, it won't be too long. Her cancer has returned. Again. It hasn't responded to treatment and is in fact spreading. There is nothing more that the doctors can do.
Her daughters checked her out of the hospital today and brought her home. As I sat in one of their homes today I was struck by the unfairness of it all. I sat there with my bible opened up in my lap and just kept thinking, 'it's just not fair'. I watched the anguish on her daughters' faces and thought, 'it's just not fair'.
We were all gathered in the living room getting all the details of hospice worked out and my heart was in such a grieving state. A very real and painful state of mourning. She was clearly in pain and as the nurse was trying to find the right dosage of her pain medication to get it under control, my heart just hurt so bad. It was all I could do to keep the tears from rolling down my face. They were brimming in my eyes and my heart was completely filled with them. I silently grieved.
I was grieving for those 2 precious young women as they were bracing themselves for what was to come. Young mothers in their early 30's that shouldn't have to watch their mother die. I was grieving for those 7 precious grandchildren who had no idea what was about to take place in their lives. I was grieving for the ex-husband who was so lovingly sitting by the side of his children's mother. I was grieving for this sweet woman, who was worried about what this was doing to her loved ones.
But as I sat there, God spoke so sweetly to my spirit. I knew that life wasn't fair. It never has been and it never will be. Life isn't about fairness. Life is about Jesus. It's about living our lives for Him and His glory. It's about doing what God has called us to do. It's about a real and personal relationship with our God.
Death isn't the end. It is the beginning. It is the start of an eternity with an Almighty God. For those who are the children of God, death is victory.
"Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of His saints"
One day we will shed these old earthly bodies and we will finally meet our Savior face-to-face. We will experience the true fullness of joy. We will see Him for who He really is and we will be worshiping our Lord like never before. We will worship in spirit and in truth. We will worship for all eternity.
Life isn't fair. But what we receive in death isn't either. We don't deserve the mercy and grace our God gives us. We don't deserve eternal life. But because of His great love for us, we inherit it when we become a child of the King.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from
their eyes; and there shall be no more
death, neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain;
for the former things are passed away"
Even though we have heartaches here on earth and even though we have to endure trials and sufferings, one day we will be with Jesus forever. We will leave this earthly lodging place and reach our final destination. And it will have all been worth it.
Oh, precious Lord, send your comforter to those who are hurting. Minister to their hearts and souls. Reveal yourself to them in a mighty and awesome way. Wrap them up in your sweet embrace and grant them peace.