For the past year and a half the relentless recurrence of medical challenges has revealed the deep sacrificial love that is the fabric of this marriage. No one would have been critical if there had been some expression of lament from the husband who is afflicted or from the wife, the tireless caregiver. But all that came from them was gratitude for the 85 years of health that preceded this season of difficulty.
This week I learned they were back in the hospital again and wanted to talk about making some big decisions. The care conference for this decision was held as we stood in a circle around his hospital bed. The team was made up of three physicians, a social worker, a nurse, his wife, his oldest daughter and me, his pastor. As a spokesman for the family I expressed our belief that these bodies are only designed for temporary use; we never want to hasten death but we also do not want to deny death.
I asked the medical team to consider hospice care as the regime of treatment was seemingly prolonging the struggle with no promise of benefit. We all prayed together acknowledging the gravity of this decision and at the same time knowing that our sovereign God would not be limited by our actions. We prayed that if our decision was not His will that His will, not ours, be done.
With gentle authority, the doctor in charge stated that this beloved husband and father did, indeed, meet the qualifications for hospice. Curative treatments would be discontinued and a transfer to an inpatient hospice would be implemented.
All of us in the circle breathed a sigh of relief adding the sound of our breath to the labored breathing from our afflicted friend. When the health care workers had left the room I asked his wife to talk to me about her response to what had just occurred. Without hesitation she replied, “Oh, I am simply filled with joy. I love him too much to want him to suffer anymore.”
She continued to caress the hand of her dying husband. I quietly thanked God for this picture of faith that shouted their belief that when we die we are swallowed up by life.
Yes, it was time to head home.