When my brother died, death roared in like a freight train, knocking us all over in its wake. It came so fast and furious, we hardly knew what had hit us, until a couple weeks into the experience.
Now death has come on soft feet, gliding into the room, standing off in the shadows – quiet and patient.
It’s not that we didn’t expect this to happen to my dad. Eventually. He’s been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact – for almost four years now.
It’s just that you are never really ready. You hope and you pray for the next treatment to work, to give him more good days and weeks and months. You hold your breath as you check lab numbers you didn’t even know existed before cancer got its sharp claws into your loved one.
The thing is, I thought I was going to lose my dad last summer. His numbers spiked, and he was hospitalized for a month.
I remember praying and asking, begging really, God for another year with my dad. I remember telling God how I was not ready to lose my dad yet. I reminded God of Hezekiah and how God gave him more years.
And God answered my prayers.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have that extra year, to have the opportunity to be intentional about spending time with my parents. I know sometimes you aren’t that fortunate.
I’ve lived out when you aren’t that fortunate.
Of course, I hoped I’d have more than a year. I know my dad really, really wants to see my youngest son graduate from high school.
But I had this feeling, deep in my heart, that I’d get my year but probably not much more. I wish I could say how I knew that. I just did.
Even as I saw my dad starting to decline, and I started praying again, it was almost as if I felt God put His fingers gently on my lips to hush me.
My prayers became different.
I started to pray for God’s perfect timing in my dad’s life. I’ve been reading the Gospels this spring and summer, and it’s been interesting and eye opening. All those stories I heard separately in Sunday school have taken on a new, richer meaning when seen together.
And one thing I have been seeing as I read through the Gospels is Jesus both cared deeply for the people in front of Him, but He also never lost sight of eternity and that this world is but a shadow of the glory which is to come.
The sickness of people’s souls mattered much more to Him than their physical illnesses and infirmities. Yes, He healed them. Yes, He had compassion on them. He even wept for them.
But, Jesus never lost sight of what was truly important – eternity and where those souls were spending it.
So, as I’ve prayed (and let’s be honest, cried), I’ve found myself praying for God’s will, not my desire to keep my dad close to me. I’ve found myself opening both my hands and telling God that I trust Him with my dad’s every breath, and I believe that God is so good and so gracious as to orchestrate exactly when his last breath will be.
As I’ve prayed, I’ve been at peace with the fact that God has the bigger picture that I can never see from my human perspective.
As I prayed, God brought to mind a woman I interviewed several years ago who was a glass artist. She would take the sheets of glass and precisely cut them out. While the pieces themselves were beautiful, it was impossible to tell what their final shape would be just from the individual pieces. She’d carefully solder them to an iron frame.
From the back side, it didn’t look like much. You were very aware of each individual piece of glass, but the big picture was lost. However, when you turned it over. Wow! The beauty of that piece of art when all those little pieces were put together was breathtaking.
It was even more awe-inspiring when the light shone through it.
More and more, I’m realizing that my sight is limited to the individual pieces. And even though those individual pieces can be beautiful by themselves, it’s only when they are fitted into the big picture that they find their true meaning and shine to their fullest beauty. So, all I can do is trust God to places those pieces into His grand masterpiece.
It won’t be until God’s glory shines through that I will see and be amazed at the plan God had all along.
I’m not going to lie. Watching my dad diminish physically has been and is hard. Watching as death quietly waits in the wings, drawing ever closer on those soft feet is difficult. Watching the man who used to toss me in the air and walk across the pool on his hands and seemed like an invincible hero hardly able to lift his glass to his mouth is heartbreaking.
But I know that as I and my mom keep this vigil, we’re not alone. And neither is my dad. God is right there. My dad is safely tucked into His loving arms. He is carrying my dad these last difficult steps, and He is holding him oh so close to his heart.
I am reminded that as hard as things are today, we serve a good, loving God who is just waiting for our eternal homecoming to reveal the true, glorious masterpiece He’s made of of each of our lives.
This song by Chris Tomlin reminded me of this truth. I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy.
All the Way My Savior Leads Me by Chris Tomlin