Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sensitivity and Sensibility

This has been an interesting week. I believe that I have learned a lot about sensitivity and sensibility.

The week began with a kind of "death watch" (I know, that's insensitive) as Chris' mom held on to life only because her body had not yet exhausted its reserves of life sustaining energy. Chris and the kids had planned to visit and were getting ready to leave Saturday morning (a week ago) when the call came that her mom had gotten worse and that the end was near. Her other sisters were called so that they could make arrangements to come and say their good byes.

I was scheduled to preach at Hopedale the following day and be Camp Pastor at a camp last week. As you might expect, Chris wanted me to change my plans and come with them. Now I have to admit, the sensible part of me said that people were counting on me to fulfill the commitments that I made to them and I figured that Chris' mom wasn't quite at death's door as her hypochondriac-take-another-pill sister would have everyone believe. (I know, that's also quite insensitive) However, I did the sensitive thing--made a few phone calls and bailed on the commitments that I had made in order to stand with the one that I committed to nearly twenty-seven years ago. The kids packed more clothes, I quickly put somethings together and we were on the road within a few hours.

After a couple of days, the kids and I returned home leaving Chris at her parents home. Aaron started his online summer classes and I contemplated calling the camp to see if they needed me to come out for a couple of sessions or if they had everything covered. We kept in touch with Chris and received her call that her mom died on Wednesday morning.

We were back in a hotel by Wednesday evening and spent much of the next two days doing nothing as funeral arrangements and the like were made while we tried to stay out of the way and keep from being too bored.

These things all played havoc with my sensibility meter. As a follower of Jesus, I truly believe that Shirley is in a far better place today than she was in that pain filled worn out body that she occupied until Wednesday morning. I know that we tend to cling to the people that we love and want to keep them near us forever, but isn't our love great enough to think of them instead of ourselves and our feelings?

It seems to me that if I were an atheist I would view death as a simple and unavoidable part of life. I would move on and go about living my own meaningless and futile life until it was my turn to take the big dirt nap. Death would be no big deal--just the end of life.

The funny thing is I'm not an atheist. I believe in a loving God and an eternal soul. And I view death as a simple and unavoidable part of life. But I do believe that our souls live on and I believe that for a soul that has trusted Jesus for salvation, we live on in heaven--in the presence of God. I think that we should move on and go about living our lives with purpose--His purpose, until its our turn to be called into His Divine Presence. Death would be a big deal--it would be the beginning of a new and better life!

I learned a lot this week about sensitivity. I watched as people came to give comfort and encouragement to Chris and her family. I watched as people put their own lives on hold to see to the needs of a grieving family. I watched as friend after friend called to offer help, to bring meals, to make arrangements, to babysit little ones, to offer comfort and to just sit quietly with my father-in-law. Our pastor and his wife drove across the state to show their love and offer their encouragement and support to Chris and her family. Chris' best friend and husband also made the long trip...just to be with a friend in a difficult time. Aaron and Hannah were great! They never complained even though I know that they must have been incredibly bored most of the time.

It is amazing how a little bit of sensitivity can give an incredible amount of strength and endurance. A simple card in the mail, a word, a thought expressed, a prayer all seem to have a life giving effect. It's hard to use the word sensible when it really makes no sense at all--at least not in a world with no God.

In the Bible, Jesus said that others will know that we are His disciples by the way that we love one another. This week, the love that was shown to Bob, Chris and her sisters was more than just encouragement. It was a testimony that God is still sovereign. It was a reminder that Shirley is in good hands--His hands. It was a call to sensitivity...for me.

Apparently, even when it makes no sense, sensitivity is the most sensible thing.

I really wanted to meet Mike at Ted Drewe's...but somehow it seemed that my wife might think me insensitive. I did manage some of the heavenly custard, but it was with family and friends that had come to offer their support. Ah well, there will be another time!

Chris and her sisters are writing out thank you cards and we'll soon be heading home. It has been a long week. In the end, I think that I've gained quite a bit of knowledge about the ministry of presence and the value of friendship. The real test will be putting it into practice.



Sicilian said...

Having been through a very similar experience, I know your support was needed.
It something to do with the love you have for each other. Having your presence for her was comforting even though there was really nothing that you could do, but pray that God would take your mom in law from the pain.(I know that is a weird thought, but I though it a lot watching my mom suffer)I never knew how painful cancer was until I watched my mom suffer. There wasn't enough pain medicine given to her to alleviate her pain ever.
Your mom in law is not suffering.

Mike said...

Your right, there will be other times. You did the sensible thing.