A visitor approached a famous comedic actor who was ill in a hospital and said sympathetically, “This must be very difficult for you”. The actor lifted his head, smiled weakly, and disagreed saying “No. No. It is not too bad”. He then spoke the classic apothegm:
great story. most likely not a true quote (since no one has claimed it and comedians kind of like to claim their best stuff.) but a funny quote nonetheless...
because dying ain't easy. (insert comedic drum riff here)
i have a friend whom i have only met in person two or three times but we are good friends on facebook (i am back to a good relationship with facebook. thank you for asking.) she just found out that her mother has a brain tumor. there is nothing that can be done. there is not much time left for her mother here. an eternity awaits in a better place. but before that day arrives this friend has to help her mother spend her last days here.
and i learned a LOT watching my mother's last days here. (see blog posts from january and february of 2008 for those lessons) but the lesson that i have been thinking about every time i pray for this facebook friend and her mother is this one...
while my mother was at the hospice house i asked the nurse why my mom was on so much pain medication. she had a brain aneurysm and it continued to bleed and it was slowly stopping all her organs from functioning. i didn't really understand why that would hurt so much (note that i have NO MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE AT ALL. my sister and my best friend are nurses. i leave all medical issues up to them.) the nurse smiled and quietly and very seriously said...
i think in my mind i quipped, "don't i know it." i hope i didn't quip out loud. i meant it in the selfish way. like "this is hurting me. as a daughter." only i could turn my mother's death into pain and a comedy routine about ME. but i still didn't medically understand why would it hurt my mom. things shutting down. seems painless. easy. like going to sleep. isn't "turning off" less painful than "turning on". turns out it must not be like that. out bodies fight for life.
now i UNDERSTAND the pain of childbirth. i understand that pain FRIGHTENINGLY WELL (baby #3. no epidural. enough said.) the pain of something being born. oh, that i get. but the "going gently into that good night" somehow seems like it should not be so painful on a body.
perhaps there is something about death not being the "natural" state that it seems to be. for all of the lion king's "circle of life" sing songyness there is something painful about death not being what God intended for His children. and yet, as with all of the paradoxes of our faith, it is the only way to see His face completely.
and if death hurts. because death is a part of reality here on earth, then reality hurts. though in something other than reality, something Greater and more Real than this reality, we only face the shadow of death. the death of our physical self. not of our soul. and not for eternity.
but that physical death in this fallen world still hurts. whatever is alive in us fights death. to the tooth and nail. i saw my mom, all 88 pounds of her, fight for her life. even though she wasn't conscious of it. her body fought for two weeks to finally be free from its mortal coil. though i know her soul was ready to meet its Maker. and Sustainer. the One who conquered death for her.
i listened to the great sermon by tim keller a few weeks ago: suffering, if God is good why is there so much evil in the world.
dr. keller talks about how Jesus' death is the answer to that question (spoiler alert. listen anyway.) Jesus' horrific and painful death. His compassionate answer to why do we suffer is that He suffers along with us. He was forsaken while He suffered in a way that we will never be. that is the Good news.
but even with all that Good news there is still the fact that the comedian didn't point out in his comedy routine on his death bed...
turns out death isn't as easy as life. or comedy after all...
“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that's all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.”
more on this subject next time... i have been thinking a lot about death lately. i think i have a death wish. ha. not the dead death but the dying to self kind of death... which also hurts.