What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

The Life in Dying

I have seen all kinds of dying.  I see it as a part of life most people overlook––in a sense. Maybe that will not make any sense to the average person. Maybe that is a good thing?  I don’t know.  I know people who have worked with dying patients may relate and I know people who have faced illness may relate. Really, why else would you think of death as such?

I remember my first death as a nurse. It was a peaceful death. It was expected. It was awkward being the one responsible for checking for the lack of vital signs. I remembered the rule of listening for a heartbeat for a full minute, the longest minute of my life, as all eyes of the family members were on me.  I felt their tears on hold…justing waiting for the words before they burst out. The hardest part was getting the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t wait to get of the room so I could breathe.

I cannot recall how many deaths I have seen since. I’ve grown accustomed to every part of it.  I know how to talk to a family and the patient of the impending outcome.  I know how to explain (gently) why the body does not need the food the family insists on giving. I know when to stay in the room and I know when to give the family space. I am so good at death that I sometimes can see it coming just by a smell, by a subtle change in the skin, and by a look of the eyes.

Although I may have grown accustomed to the process, it is never easy to say goodbye to a patient and it is even harder to watch a family have to say goodbye to their loved one.  I have shed many tears with family members––something I could not do at first.  I had a very wise nurse tell me one time that it was okay to cry with the families from time to time.  I took that advice because sometimes patients and their family become like family.  I have gathered most of my wisdom of life from being a part of the last days of people’s life.  I have learned what truly matters in life because of them.

I wish I could give some specific examples of what I have seen; I have seen some crazy things.  There is something of a personal level that I do not feel comfortable sharing.  It is not my story to blurt out on a blog.  I am just a bystander in their last moments of life. What I do want to share is what I have learned. Most of it sounds too simple to be profound.  But profound is usually found in the most simple things, isn’t it?  Here’s what I got:

There is life in dying. There is a reason they are still living, even if for just another breath.

Family matters.  People want their family there with them.  They need to feel their hand being held. They need to hear it is okay to die.  They need to hear, “I love you.”

Laughter.  It is okay to laugh when someone is dying.  Sit in the room and tell the funny stories.

Tears. Tears are okay too.

Money.  It doesn’t matter.  Not once have I heard a dying patient talk about the amount of money they made in a lifetime.

Attention.  People want attention.  Brush their hair.  Straighten their sheets.  Sometimes it is the little things that matter the most.

Forgiveness.  Give it.  Receive it.  I have seen patients holding out to die because they are waiting for it. Don’t be stubborn.

Love.  I told you simple, didn’t I?

Faith.  I saved the best for last.  Faith most definitely makes all the difference in death.  I have seen the difference of someone with and someone without faith die.  There is a difference. There really is.