I received the call at 7:30 that night.  John died at 6pm.  I was at Universal Studios Theme Park with a group of people who are mentally challenged.  There was no way for me to run over to help comfort the family because I could not leave the people who were at the amusement park.  So we talked on the phone for about 20 minutes.  His sister shared the pain and suffering he endured in his last hours.  I talked to her about the visits we had together in the last two weeks.

John started attending Special Gathering of Melbourne–a ministry within the mentally challenged community–about 10 years ago.  He soon joined the choir and helped each week to set up the room for worship.  A man of few words, he depended on his smile to portray his deep feelings of love, joy and satisfaction.  Two years ago, John went to the nursing home because he was expected to live no longer than a few months.  Two weeks ago, Hospice was called in and the family was told that the cancer which had been gnawing at his physical body for years was finally destroying his fragile frame.

On Wednesday of last week, I had gone into his room and softly touched his arm.  He opened his eyes and looked up.  His smile was gone. His eyes seemed larger because his face was gaunt and thin.

I knew his time was short.  “You’re ready to go home, aren’t you?”

John gently shook his head.

“You know it’s going to be a wonderful homecoming.  You’ll see your mother and father.  You’re going to be really happy.”

“I know,” he whispered.  I prayed for him and left.

Another member was convolesing in the same facility.  She’s a young woman who is confined to a wheelchair and doesn’t speak.  The next day I came back to visit both of them.  I knew Christine would want to see John; but I didn’t think it was useful to have her see him in the weak and sick condition he had been in the previous day.  Before going to her room, I stuck my head in the door of John’s room.  The room was bare.

Shocked, I went to the nurses’ station.  “Where’s John?”

“He’s in the television room, watching TV,” she said, grinning and pointing to the gray headed man sitting straight and tall in his wheelchair.  When I came into the TV room, he smiled and waved to me by lifting his fingers from the arm of the wheelchair.  After a few minutes, I wheeled Christine into see him.  She had a stuffed yellow chicken toy to give to him.  Together, they giggled and played with the chicken that cheeped like a biddie.

We prayed with him and left.  That was the last time I saw John but it won’t be the last time that I will see him.  He was smiling as he waved good-bye to us.

I think John is singing somewhere in heaven right now.  I can’t wait to see him healed and whole. I know from the reactions of our members when we talk about heaven that they look forward to the time that their minds will be made whole.  I often ask myself.  What will our members be like when they get to heaven? 

Who have you lost to death?  When you are with a person who is about to reach the threshold of death, are you able to talk to them about dying?  What do you say?

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/#ixzz1zDb027J1

There are two stories in the Bible that have fascinated me all my life.  The first is a parable that Jesus told.  It is the story of a merchant who found an extremely valuable pearl.  After finding this magnificent pearl, he went and sold everything he had to purchase it. I was always taught that the pearl was the kingdom for God and that when we find this great pearl, we must give up everything to purchase this great pearl.  I wanted to be like that wise merchant and give everything to the Lord.

Then many years later, during my prayer time, the Lord spoke to my heart in a still small voice and said, “Linda, you are that pearl and I gave up everything to purchase you.”  During the past week, each time I think about Grace Renee, the Lord reminds me of the pearl of great price.  Again, the Lord has spoken to me, “I’ve brought my magnificent pearl, Grace Renee, home.

When Cindy, an ARC staff person, came into Special Gathering last Saturday, she pulled me aside.  At first, I was hesitant to be drawn away from eye and ear contact of the group, even though there was another volunteer in the room.  However, when it became apparent that something really bad had happened, we walked a distance away from the room and Cindy tearfully shared that “something is wrong with Renee.”  She didn’t know what had happened but she felt that perhaps, as Renee’s pastor, I could find out.

“Renee is very special to me,” she said.  Over the past two weeks, as I spoke with people who knew Renee they repeated often, “Renee was very special to me.”

Until you’ve been drawn into our community, it might be confusing to understand how an individual like Renee can steal your heart.  How can Renee’s suffering wrench your heart until you believe it will break?  Yet, Renee’s love and joy was a magnet for those of us who knew and loved her.  Joanne Semenuck knew her when she was in school.  She said, “She was the happiest young woman I ever met.”

Lorraine, one of the five residents in her home, said, “I love Renee.  I didn’t want her to go away and leave us.”  Everyone in the home said, “We are a family.  Renee is our family.”

Bessie Mariner, her support coordinatior, told me, “Almost every time I met with Renee she blessed me by praying for me.  She loved to pray.  I know that she knew the Lord in a powerful way.”

Small things about Renee were most endearing, like the quirky way she could sneak to get her way.  You didn’t know whether to scold her or hug her.  When one trick no longer worked, she would devise a different tactic to snare you into getting her way.

Renee also reminded me of a second story from the Bible.  This story is true.  In the last week of Jesus’ life, a woman came and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair.  Because of the dry, dirty conditions in Judea; and because everyone wore sandals, it was a custom to wash everyone’s feet as they entered a home.  But the host had neglected to do that for Jesus.  When this woman washed Jesus’ feet, it was a blessing that she could uniquely give him.  It was a splendid and deeply personal gift of love.  I believe that Renee often showed her love for the Lord in deeply personal ways and that love spilled out onto us.

Yes, we will miss Renee but mostly we will miss the times she washed away the concerns of the day with her antics and joy.  We will miss the way she reached down and personally knew what we needed; and without a word, her touch and smile helped to meet that need.

She was perhaps one of the weakest among us; but in so many ways, she was able to show us the Lord’s strength and power.

“But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.”  Life is replaced with death.  Death is replaced by eternal life.

On Saturday, I learned that a member of the mentally challenged community had suffered a brain hemorrhage and had been placed on life support.  The decision was made to disconnect her from life support that afternoon while we were in the middle of our Special Gathering program.  Phone calls from grieving staff who had worked with her most of her life came quickly into my phone.  Because we were having Special Gathering at the time that things were progressing, I could have been in a bit of a dilemma.

However, the Vero supervisor, Diane, immediately understood and she filled in the vacuum this emergency created.  She continued the program without missing a beat.  This is the second time that a pending death has happened during our Special Gathering program.  While I would not consider leaving our members, there are several things that can be put into place.

  1. Training in advance is perhaps the most vital key.  Because of the emphasis on health and safety that has been put into place at Special Gathering, I knew that the staff understood the importance of keeping our members in their normal routine and carrying the load while I was a bit out-of-pocket.
  2. Cell phones are perhaps a program directors greatest ally during a crisis situation.  Standing far enough away from our members so that they can not hear a deeply personal and private conversation, I can still be in view of SpG members and observant staff.
  3. Choosing the right staff may seem obvious; but there is no doubt that it is an issue that needs to be reviewed often. Careful staffing selection is the key but that is a different issue for a different day.
  4.  I’m learning that not everyone can supervise or improvise.  Both are needed during a crisis situation by the person who is in charge of supervision.
  5. Keep your composure at all times.  If you and your supervisor remain calm, your members will be calm.  There should be time for weeping; but while walking through the valley of the shadow of death, it a time for peace and calm, not drama and chaos.
  6. Pray freely with people to whom you are speaking.  Don’t be afraid to ask, “May I pray with you?”  During personal crises, we all can become overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness.  Counter that feeling with a confidence in God’s ability to make every circumstance right.
  7. Assure the people on the phone that you will come as quickly as possible.  I had a van route to do.  Therefore, I could not get to the hospital even after our program ended.  I explained to the people who needed to know what my afternoon process should be so that there would be no misunderstanding.

Perhaps the most important thing you bring to the table is your relationship and confidence in the Lord.  What are some of the things you have learning during crisis, especially a death, during your program?

The week before Christmas and the next two weeks have always been a bit of whirlwind for our family.  We celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Day heartily.  Additionally, there are three birthdays and three wedding anniversaries crammed into those short weeks.

January 7 would have marked my husband’s and my 50th wedding anniversary.  But he tricked the family and died on May 10, 2011, avoiding a large party.  The children and I were trying to sort through how to make an 50th anniversary party work with my husband very sick, limited mobility and basically no desire for a big party.  He solved the issue.

It seems selfish to feel a bit of disappointment that we didn’t make our 50th wedding anniversary because it is certainly true that I’m very happy that my husband is no longer suffering.  But for me our anniversary date was accented with the first full day of deep regrets since he died.

Ours wasn’t a perfect marriage.  We’ve been told by several newlywed couples that Frank and I could learn a great deal about marriage by watching how they interact.  There were many days of self-made trauma and conflict.  While he did things that annoyed me and bruised my spirit, I never doubted his love.  Yet, because of his own childhood and deep insecurities, he was never able to fully accept mine.

Now, I know that he is healed and not hurting.  That makes me happy.  Of course, the party is over but a new page is beginning for both of us.  And it is good.

I am a real believer in delayed gratification.  In fact, as much as I love gifts, I love the anticipation even more.  As a child, I gave up the Christmas gift hunt.  The annual childhood adventure wasn’t hard in our house, because our home was small and there weren’t many hiding places.  But I loved the wait.

Daddy always locked the cellar where he spent hours working on new toys and refurbishing old favorites until they were like new.  Mother’s hiding job was harder because her sewing machine was in clear view.  We usually shopped with her when she bought the material for the mountains of new clothes she would make for us.

My last Christmas at home, Mother made me a wonderful new coat.  It was red with gusset sleeves and I thought it was the most beautiful coat I’d ever seen.  The fact that she made it added to its value for me.  I was married two weeks after Christmas that year so she spent added hours that fall working on my wedding dress and my trousseau.

I’ve always felt sorry for people who had to have Christmas or to get married without my mother.  She made all our clothes, working endless hours sewing and fixing and shopping.  That year, she planned the wedding, made my dress and my going-away suit.  She made the food for the reception and shopped for the cake.  My job was to pick out the bride’s maid dress patterns and materials, design my wedding dress and stand for hours for fittings.

After Mother died, I found that the gifts didn’t end.  At last I had the money to purchase the garden furniture that I’d been eyeing for about four years.  I took a small part of my inheritance and went to the store to buy the chairs, tables and couch.

Before I purchased them, I walked out of the store.  I knew that an era was over.  Thanks to mother’s careful savings, I wouldn’t be searching and saving for the perfect combo for my backyard garden.  I would have them.

I also knew that Mother’s gifts to me were almost complete.  I went to my closet and felt one more time my lace wedding dress, now faded with age.  The next day I returned to the store.  Over night, the set I wanted had gone on sale.  I was able to buy it at a huge savings.

I giggled as I purchased my garden set.  Mother’s gift giving wasn’t over.  When I sat on them perched perfectly under the shade of the gazebo.  I cried and laughed and thanked God for a wonderful mother who helped her children understand and cherish the wonder of His love.  I silently praised him for a mother who made elegant wedding gowns and who taught me to wait for better gifts and to love sales.

Nancy’s voice was sorrowful, “Linda, can we have lunch?  I just want to be sure things are all right with you.”  She is a friend and a fellow pastor.  Nancy, also a recent widow, has called me several times since my husband died just to be sure that I’m all right.

We sat for an hour, eating, laughing and crying about our husbands and our present lives.  Over the months of sorrow and grief, I’ve been upheld and supported by many people who have shown exceptional love.  Here are some things that I’ve learned about supporting others and thereby winning friends from the men and women who have loved me through my present situation.

1.  My friends listen.

2.  Again and again, folks allow me to talk openly about my sorrow without interrupting me.

3.  People aren’t afraid to laugh with a me about situations and events that have happened during the last year.

4.  My friends allow me to cry freely without embarrassment.

5.  They take time for me, even though their lives are hurried and busy.

6.  When appropriate, my friends–especially the men–don’t let me drone on and on about my past and present situations.

7.  People haven’t been afraid to give me advice regarding important financial decisions that I’ve had to make.

8.  Giving added support, there have been people who have been proactive about decisions that I’ve been hesitant to make.  Their support has even extended from advice to action when needed.

9.  Close friends have not been afraid to advise me to slow down when they’ve seen me rushing into life-changing decisions.

10. I’ve been assured of the prayers of my friends.  They’ve not been afraid to stop in the middle of a conversation, even in public, to pray for me.  They often say, “I’m praying.”  This gives me great encouragement.

People within the mentally challenged community and their families walk through sorrowful  health and death events.  These are some ways that you may be of help to them.  What are other things that you’ve experienced that also help?

This is an email I received from Bev Linder today.  I wanted to share this with you.  Brad had many physical disabilities and died a few years ago.

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Dear friends,
The following is one of the blogs on my website.  Many of you who receive this mailing may not be aware of my blog.  To view more blogs click here.
When I was home schooling Brad, I would sometimes go out of the house for a while and leave him doing his schoolwork.  He would invariably call me, and about 95% of the time, his first words were, “When will you be home, Mom?”  My answer varied–sometimes I had a bunch to do yet; sometimes, I had only one or two more errands; and some days I would say, “Guess what, Brad.  I’m driving into our driveway right now and should be walking through the door any minute!” Now Brad is in heaven…

 

…and while I was out today, I looked at my cell phone and I could almost hear him saying, “When will you be home, Mom?”  It struck me that Brad really is still waiting for me to come home, only now it is our eternal Home.  I believe with all my heart that our loved ones in heaven still love us and look forward to being with us just as much as we look forward to being with them.
The difference now is that I don’t know when I will be Home.  I may still have much to do on this earth; or maybe I only have a few things that God wants me to accomplish; or maybe I am just about to walk through that door!
And just like when I would leave Brad home when I did my errands, although he is looking forward to seeing me and others that he loves, he is not sitting around idly. When he was here, he was busy doing his school work.  Now, he is busy in heaven.  2 Corinthians 5:9 says, “Therefore we have as our ambition whether at home or absent (whether in heaven or still on earth) to be pleasing to Him.”  I have the same ambition as my son (and other loved ones in heaven)–to be pleasing to Christ in my service.
And I’ll be Home, soon Brad…not sure how soon, but soon!
Bev Linder
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