I had come to the home of my 91-year-old friend to put the finishing touches on his memorial service. He has been accepted as a hospice patient and, knowing that the health care system has exhausted its resources for treatment, he has chosen quality of life (comfort measures only). His strong faith in the hope of spending eternity with Jesus makes talking about death easy.
In planning the service we discussed favorite hymns, the scripture he would want read, who would bring words of remembrance and what I should talk about when bringing a message of hope.
We laughed together when he said that after the service “we” could take the ashes to Illinois and spread them on a gravesite he owned there. I couldn’t just let that go so I asked if it would be “we” who would take the ashes. Allowing the reality to settle, he said, “No, I won’t be going.”
Having taken care of the details I looked at this man through the eyes of my experience as a registered nurse and said, “I am not at all sure that you can lean hard on the expectation that your death is imminent.” “Of course you could die before I leave today, but then so could I.” Pondering this I asked, “I wonder if you need to be prepared to live as well as prepared to die.”
He then acknowledged that the doctors had also thought he may actually be improving. We sat together quietly before he told me he had changed his language of prayer. For two weeks he had begged God to let him die. “Lord, I’ve had enough. I’d like you to help me slip away in the dark of night.” But then he remembered that Jesus Himself had prayed “If possible, take this away from me.”
The memory of Jesus and His trial helped my friend understand that the Lord had not turned His back on him, “it’s just that God wasn’t ready.” So the new prayer language is, “I’m ready when you are. You call me and I will come.” Explaining further he turned to me and said, “There’s no use pushing Him as He’s not a pushover.” He concluded with, “I’ll go when he calls me and not before.”
May that be my prayer, too.