(This article was written in July of 2010. I’ve added an update December 2014).
My first close brush with death was helping a co-worker in my early 20’s deal with her husband’s sudden death due to an aneurism in his stomach. My second close brush with death was while I was visiting my extended family in Indiana and my maternal grandfather died. I had to help my grandmother plan the funeral. I stayed in her home the night he died and until my parents flew in for the funeral. Again, I was in my early 20’s, not knowing how to handle things, but learned through these experiences.
In my 30’s, another friend’s husband died with a sudden heart attack. He was at his prime in his 50’s. A wonderful husband, father and friend to pastors who helped build churches, but God allowed his heart to fail.
When I was 43, a close friend died with cancer that started in the breast – to the bone – to the lungs and then congestive heart failure took her to be with the Lord at age 42. During the last few months of her life, she asked me to be her body ‘caretaker’ when she became helpless. It was the hardest experience of my life.
In 1990, one year after my first friend died, another close friend had breast cancer and, thankfully, the Lord allowed to her live. Since that time she has had bone cancer and another small breast cancer. She chose not to take chemotherapy and the Lord blessed her with healing and health. In that same year, my sister-in-law had breast cancer. She had a recurrence, but with treatment and procedures is a survivor today.
My niece, Melody Edday Meeks, at 23 had breast cancer. She took chemotherapy plus surgery and is a survivor today with two young sons in her late 30’s.
I have had to comfort two mothers, one who had a teen son die of a heart defect and the other through an accident. The process of dying or a sudden death is an inevitable part of life, but we are so unprepared in how to be supportive.
In 1995, while we were preparing for my daughter’s wedding, my father, Elder Raymond G. Theobald, was dying with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer that he had been battling for two years. He had always been extremely healthy. But at the age of 84, being misdiagnosed by a pulmonary doctor, succumbed to the cancer in advanced stages. At this same time another close friend found out she had lung cancer. She had the cancer removed from the inner lobe of the lung. It had not spread and she was told she was cancer free. But in a short time, cancer was discovered in her lungs again.
My father went to the Lord on June 15, 1995, in his 85th year and six weeks later my friend went to the Lord at the age of 53. She had been closely supportive to me through my father’s illness and then the Lord took her.
In 2003/2004 my brother, Rev. David R. Theobald, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer is not genetic and the doctors were surprised that son and father had the same disease. David took extensive chemotherapy. He almost died with a blood clot. But the Lord brought him through and he is cancer free today at the age of 75.
In 2007, my dear mother went to the Lord at the age of 93 with congestive heart failure. She had been blessed with moderately good health most of her life. She survived a fall that ruptured her spleen and almost died in 1974, but God gave her 33 more years of life. Question: Why does one person die at 42 and another at 93? Do you have the answer? I just know that the Bible says our life is in the hands of the Lord.
Now, I have another dear close friend who has been diagnosed the second time with cancer that started with inflammatory breast cancer. She will have chemotherapy again plus other medicines. She lost all of her hair and it has grown back in about three inches and now she is starting the whole procedure over again. Many, many friends and family members are praying for her healing and health. We want to see a miracle!
The Bible tells us to weep with those that weep, mourn with those that mourn and rejoice with those that rejoice. The church (I’m speaking collectively as believers) seems only to be comfortable with rejoicing with those who rejoice. When someone gets an illness that could lead to death, diverse messages come from every angle. “Don’t speak negative.” “If you die, that means you did not have enough faith.” “If your friend dies, you did not have enough faith for her/his healing.” “God intends for all to be healed.” “Don’t talk about your fears. That gives the devil a foot hold.” “If you speak a negative thought, that’s a sign of no faith.” I could go on and on with all that I have heard in my 64 years.
I have not read in the Bible that everyone that is sick will be healed. I have read that it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. I have not read that we are not to deal with our painful emotions. I have read in the Psalms how David talked to the Lord about the negatives in his life along with the positive praises. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus had to die again!
It almost seems ‘we’ put the sick person in a strait jacket. We won’t allow them to express their human emotions regarding their illness. We just ‘plain do not know’ how to comfort others! God allowed David and Job to express their negative emotions without condemnation! God knows that at times we all need to VENT OUR VATS out loud to someone who cares and loves us unconditionally. This does not mean that we do not have faith!! It just means that we are the temples of the Holy Ghost and we live in human flesh that does suffer. We all will die some day with either a sickness of the body or an accident if the Lord delays His return for the Church!! Jesus hung on the cross and with a loud painful cry screamed out, “MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME!!!!”
Why can’t we be encouragers of faith as well as good listeners and supporters to our friend or family member that has a serious illness? I’ve allowed all my friends and family members who have had a sickness unto possible death freely talk about their sadness about their sickness and the ‘what ifs’ of possible dying. Some lived and some died. Who is going to be the judge as to who had faith? KEEPING FAITH IN GOD THROUGH THE PROCESS OF DYING IS THE GREATEST FAITH THERE IS!!
Everyone I have mentioned in this writing that is still living will die if the Lord delays His return. Those who died in Christ went instantly into the presence of the Lord! What greater place is there to be? We seem to almost make it a sin to die! How ungodly is that? God took Moses to the mountain when he was in good health, allowed him to die and buried him! God could have let him live to a ripe old age outside of the Promise Land and then die. But God made the choice, not Moses.
Because of modern medicine, many people live longer than they would without treatment. Is having treatment from the medical field a failure to trust God? You tell me?
Should we then say true faith is only trusting God and having no medical treatment? I’m not going to be your judge and I pray you will not be mine. My cry is for all of us to be real people. We all have doubts, fears and questions at times of sickness and sorrows because we are human. God does not condemn us for being human. Job said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!” He also said, “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!” Read the chapters in Job of what Job had to say. He expressed negative feelings about what he was going through. Yet, at the end of Job, God did not condemn him. God said, “Job has not sinned against me with his mouth!” (Some of these quotes are my paraphrase).
I’m determined to be supportive to my current close friend who is in her second battle with cancer. I pray the prayer of faith for her and with her on a daily basis. I encourage her to say everyday, “Lord, I walk today in health and healing!” But, I also, want to be a friend that will allow her to express any feeling or emotion she has without condemnation. I want to allow her to VENT HER VAT to me and feel safe doing so because God is also safe with her feelings. God said we could be angry, but don’t sin with the anger. We can even tell HIM how angry we are that we are sick and in pain, but also confess our love, faith and trust in HIM who is a good God and does all things well. We can offer HIM the sacrifice of praise in the process of our illness believing for our miracle and trusting Him no matter the outcome.
Also, we have the right to pray for healing and then say, “Nevertheless, Lord, not my will but Thine be done!” That is having tremendous faith in God and complete trust in Him. Jesus prayed that prayer himself. Don’t condemn me for following HIS example. I visualize that prayer seeing God’s huge hands and me crawling up into the safety of His hands knowing He will do what is right for me!!! (I feel God’s presence with me as I’m writing this article and I’m in tears.)
We all want to preach Hebrews 11 as the faith chapter. BUT please go to the last 1/3 of the chapter and read about the faithful who suffered and died without receiving their promise, yet they ALL DIED IN THE FAITH! Come on, church, get real about life and death. Only God knows our life and times. God said we should mourn at a birth and rejoice at a death, but we all do the opposite!
Hezekiah prayed for God to give him 15 more years of life and God did so. Yet, God allowed John the Baptist to have his head chopped off. Who had the most faith? I refuse to open my mouth in condemnation to anyone who is suffering a sickness that may be ‘unto death.’ I want to speak life now and, also, speak about the life hereafter. Paul said whether we live or die we belong to God. We need to be encouragers – as long as there is life, there is hope. But we also need to be able to talk about the blessed hope of the resurrection without someone saying, “You are being negative.” No, I’m being positive! Whether alive or dead, I belong to God and can sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus now and also in eternity!
I’m writing this article to prayerfully equip others with the ability to be encouragers to the sick whether their destiny in God is healing or transitioning to their ‘long home.’ I pray that if I have a sickness that could lead to death, that I will have strong believers in the faith who will come along by my side and believe with me for God’s perfect will and destiny for my life either through healing or heading to my eternal home.
© Carol Clemans – July 2010
Update: December 2014
In the above article, I referred to a dear friend who was battling inflammatory breast cancer – two years. I was able to visit her for a week in October 2010. The Lord took her to Himself in January of 2011. She was going to celebrate her 65th birthday in March 2011.
In 2003/2004, my brother, Rev. David Theobald, fought the battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer and with God’s touch won his battle. The Lord gave him 10 additional years of life. In July of 2014, he found out the same cancer had returned and it took his life on August 24, 2014 at the age of 79.
I have over 3,000 ‘friends’ on facebook. I was amazed at the amount of family members of my ‘friends’ that died during this month of December. Death is a part of life and yet we do very little in preparation for death. When we have a vital relationship with God, we have the secure hope in life after death. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Psalm 116:15 (AMP) “15 Precious (important and no light matter) in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (His loving ones).” Death is not the end of life. Yes, death brings major changes in the lives of the living. But God promises, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Every death of my friends or family members has created a different grief process for me. My father’s death created the greatest change in our lives because we assumed the care of my mother who lived one mile from us. As long as she had phone access, I called her every night for 12 years. Her grief in missing my father increased with time. It was very difficult to see her become helpless in the last year of her life until she went to the Lord in her 93rd year of life. Our family celebrations were never the same after my father’s death in 1995.
Now my oldest sibling is with the Lord. That comes close to home. There is nothing that prepares us for the accepting of death of another. From the time we are born, we get, get, get. We cry and someone comes to our need. We grow up with ‘I want, I want, I want.’ When death happens, it is final on earth. The breath of life has ceased. There is a huge vacuum around us.
We have to regroup emotionally and allow the grief process to happen. Over a period of time, you create a new normal in your life. There is no perfect process to grief. The emotions ebb and flow. I journal in prayers to God and share my emotions on paper. It seems to relieve some of the heaviness of grief. Some people keep a journal and write to their loved one sharing thoughts, feelings and activities – it gives a feeling of still being connected.
I pray that this article will help you in being supportive to others and to self when death impacts your life. Because of sinful choice in the Garden of Eden, we will face death if the Lord delays His return for His Bride. Death is a transition to eternal life in an instant. Our loneliness is the heaviest burden that comes with the death of our loved ones. God is our comfort when we turn to Him with our tears and sorrows. He is our strength and help for each new day. Give yourself permission to enjoy life one day at a time.
© Carol Clemans – December 2014
(As a Bible teacher for over 50 years and a Certified Pastoral Counselor for 22 years, it is my joy to share God’s truth through anointed teaching, counseling nationwide by phone (636) 448-0121, and writing to help others grow and heal spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Go to: www.carolclemans.org for bio, 100+ articles, teaching CD’s & DVD’s, book: “God’s Design for Marriage” – add your email address to ‘follow’ tab and receive each new posting).