Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How Do We Give Thanks in the Face of Death?

I Thessalonians 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

When death hits suddenly, it's hard to give thanks.  Really God?  You mean we are to thank You for this?  Somehow, thank you doesn't seem appropriate when one's father-in-law passes on.  

Two weeks ago today my father-in-law passed from this earthly life into eternity.  At age 70, 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day old, his death came suddenly.   I don't know why the 1, 1, 1 seems significant to me, but it does.  His death was unexpected but not totally.  A type-2 diabetic, he enjoyed his food, A LOT!  He chose to take extra insulin shots rather than watch his diet.  But all that suddenly changed in early February.  He came down with what appeared to be a GI bug, with severe vomiting and diarrhea.  He didn't get better in a day or two.  As the week wore on, he got very weak.  Finally, at the one week mark, he agreed to see his doctor.  His kidneys had shut completely down.  That was probably due to the extreme dehydration he was suffering.  He was hospitalized for a week receiving fluids and being closely monitored.  Kidney function returned to normal and he was sent home.   He was still weak but seemed to be improving daily.  But the gargantuan appetite never returned.  On day six of his homecoming, the vomiting started again.  He had eaten very little and was already very weak.  On day seven, he returned to the doctor's office and then to the hospital.  He fell two times in the twenty-four hour period between day six and day seven.  He lost consciousness three times, not related to his falling.  His blood pressure was dipping dangerously low.   His kidneys and liver were not functioning well.   And still the doctors responsible for his care thought that he needed some hydration again and he would recover again.  But that wasn't to be.   At 4:42 am on Tuesday, February 26, 2013, his death was declared by the medical team who had been trying to restore his life for the long minutes since he had gone into cardiac arrest.   So with one week sick at home, one week of weak and sick in the hospital, and then one more week at home, he passed into eternity in the first twenty-four hours of his hospitalization.   Hmmm, I really just saw the second 1, 1, 1 pattern.  Maybe that's what makes it significant to me.  The two sets of 1, 1, 1.  His death does seem full of numerical symbolism.   As I mentioned before his death was called at 4:42 am; my husband, his son, has a favorite car, the Oldsmobile 442.  His dad helped him find his first 442 before he was even licensed to drive.  When he heard his dad's official time of death, he felt as though his dad was somehow having the last laugh on him, the final irony in a lifetime of love and friendship.   And that is another story all together; how does a wife help her mate who is mourning his father and best friend?   I'll dwell on that another time.  

For now, I'm dwelling on giving thanks when life is hard, difficult, sad.  I was at a loss for whole sentences in the first few days of  family gathering and planning his memorial.  But I was so struck by the blessings coming at the family from so many sources.  We are spread over three states.   We had three different church families sending their thoughts and prayers through phone calls, texts, emails, cards, visits, helping out the two traveling children by taking care of pets, newspapers, mail.  We had numerous work associates sending their thoughts, prayers, food.  We had family friends, friends of the kids, church ladies and their spouses dropping by with food and condolences; it was overwhelming!  Best of all, we had many memories to share and so did our visitors and friends, both near and far.  The balm began with those shared stories; God's comfort began to be poured out through the laughing and the tears and the many stories of how that one, seemingly insignificant, tool and die man from Indiana touched so many lives and hearts.  

And then we became able to see how to thank God in even this.  Thank you Father for this life, for the good he did.  Thank you for the memories we are blessed to have of good times and good deeds, and fun and love.  Thank you for his quick passing; we all know he desired not to be a vegetable, a burden.  Thank you for the love note found that he randomly wrote on a post-it note to his wife.   Thank you for the outpouring of love through our extended families, (three children, three marriages, three extended families), co-workers, friends, neighbors, three church families.  All of these precious people were exhibiting Your love through their care and love.  Thank You Father!  

And so, even in death, we find a way to give thanks to our Father-God. 

 Thank You Father for the life of John David Potter, Sr., January 18, 1943-February 26, 2013.

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