I am not sure I have ever felt this strongly about writing something. This has been imprinted on my heart for a few days, and I woke up this morning before the dawn, unable to sleep unless I poured the words out. So here I sit.
I am dying, and so are you. Many of us do not focus on that until the reality hits us, but the truth is, we all share the common fate that we will one day take our last breath on this earth. For some, we will have days, months, weeks, or years to prepare for this. Others, it will come out of nowhere. Many of us will reach numerous years where our hair is gray and our memory’s full; some will be yet minutes or days old when it is determined that we pass on from this earth. This truth is coming for all of us.
Dying with dignity, they say. I do not have cancer, nor have I ever walked through the trenches of cancer with a dear family member or best friend. It has become quite the heated discussion. I cannot touch the topic of cancer for I have not walked it, but if you would like to read something that can and does, I encourage you to go here and read my friend Kara Tippetts’ heart that poured out on the pages of Ann Voskamp’s blog:
But here. What I can write about is suffering, for it has been the theme of so much of my family’s past year. Those of you who follow this blog have met Ally and Bailey Grace, our twin daughters:
To read more about our family’s journey, go here:
A large part of not having a diagnosis for our precious, happy girls is not knowing what the future holds for them. While this is true for each of us and all of our loved ones, it seems to be more of a reality for us. We do not know what parts of our girls’ little bodies are being affected by this disease, and I once had a physician tell me that our girls could, “drop dead tonight and we would not know why without a diagnosis”. It takes my breath away to even type these words, but they have replayed in my head ever sense they were spoken and while I don’t truly believe this will happen, I would be lying if I said it doesn’t run through my mind almost every day.
The girls have, thankfully, only being hospitalized for illness once each; but they have been put through numerous blood work, MRI’s, evaluations, and other various tests in their short lives. In all these moments, I can promise you one thing: I would have done anything to jump in their skin and walk through these hards for them. If you are a parent, you know this to be true. There have been several moments on this journey in which we were waiting on a test to come back that would determine whether or not our girls would see a year. I remember having a second in which I had to step away from our girls after a particularly hard appointment. They looked so innocent, so unaware of the reality. I began to cry and sat in my bathroom where the Lord faithfully met me and whispered to my heart, “I am here”. I realized in that moment that no one else could meet me in the place I was but God Himself. I decided that wherever this journey took us, I was going to trust Him with all of it.
Now this will never be a place to compare. I know many of you have walked through much harder unimaginables than we have. Suffering is suffering, however, and I do believe that it is important to write about this concept of choosing how long and how much I or my loved ones suffer. Would I take away all these hard moments our family has experienced; would I relieve my girls, my husband, our family and friends, of these challenges? At the time, absolutely. If I could have pushed a button, taken a pill, that changed the path our family had been put on, I would have. However, this is God’s story, not mine, and I am so thankful that I did not have this choice. In hindsight, I am more than grateful because it has been through our greatest suffering that I have seen the greatest beauty. You see, that’s the thing. As human beings, we are so constrained to time. We believe we have a grasp on how much suffering we deserve and what that should look like in each of our lives; and if it surpasses those barometers we set up in our minds, we feel uncomfortable. To me, the question we need to be asking ourselves is not do we think we have the right to choose how and when we die; but rather, do we think we have the right to choose how we live. This is pivotal and changes everything. If I believe that this life is solely about this life, that eternity is only eternity once life on earth is over, then I won’t be able to look past the hards and the hurts. If however, I believe that eternity has already begun and that this life on this broken planet is but a breath, no amount of suffering, whether physical or emotional, will compare to what awaits. It will all serve a purpose; and it will all be worth it. Submission to the ultimate plan will suddenly make sense in light of this glorious truth.
My moments, your moments, are all in the hand of a loving God who didn’t run away from suffering, but rather embraced it. He knew what He knew what He knew; that better things awaited just around the bend. It was worth it to Him to gain your heart. You see friends, dying with dignity does not have to do with death itself. Dying with dignity means taking your last breath here on earth knowing that in one lack of a breath, you will be transformed and made new. Not a millisecond of your suffering will matter anymore, for you will see it all in light of the eternity.
Friends, this does not begin on your death bed. This deep seated belief starts in the way you envision life, now. Is the suffering God brings to those we love in His hands, or ours? Do we have the choice to run from this suffering and check out when we feel like it is too much, or are we called to embrace it, trusting He can bring beauty from ashes? How much trust do you have in your Creator as the Sovereign King over all things, even the hardest moments this life brings? Where you stand in these questions will determine how you view all your days and, eventually, how you view your passing from earth.
I watch my two children, my only children, walk a road I would have never paved. I do not discuss this much but it deserves to be said that there is a chance I will bury them before they get the chance to bury me. Sure, this could happen to any of us. But for our family, this is the reality of our unknown. I have been comforted knowing that the God responsible for the details of our life is not unaware of suffering. He sent His Son, His only Son, to die a death full of gut-wrenching pain (both emotional and physical) so that we could experience life eternal. I am here to say that in light of this, I refuse to not live with dignity in these moments. I refuse to not live in the freedom that knows it is in His hands and not mine. I am so thankful that in His moments of deepest suffering, the moments that He did nothing to deserve, He did not run. I want to live all of my days in a posture of surrender to a God who breathes life into all of us and in a split second can take it away as He sees fit. Focused on Him, not me. I want to live with dignity in the here and now so that as those hard moments keep coming, I can keep trusting Him to know the moment it is time to make the broken pieces beautiful. He did it in His Son and He promises to do it for me and for you, if yet we would ask for the faith the believe.
Each and every second of each and every life is precious. I do not want myself or my loved ones to take one more breath or one less breath than He has desired for us. I believe He will meet all of us in those moments of pain in ways that I cannot yet understand or fathom. Do you believe that He has met you in all your moments of suffering thus far? Do you believe He will continue to do so?
I do not know Brittany Maynard. I know she is beautiful, and that she has a soul that God loves so much that He sent His Son to die a painful death in order that she, and we, could spend all our moments with Him. Met and understood in all the unimaginables. My prayer for her, for you, and for myself is that we would trust Him with all those moments and that we would allow Him to meet us in the pain; knowing He is good and that we are met by Him in all things. He is no stranger to suffering, and He thought suffering was so important that He sent His Son to do so. Surely none of us are above God Himself. May we all rest in Him in all our days; for in the blink of an eye they will all be no more. Let’s live in dignity today, friends. All is grace.