Letters from the Grave

Sometimes the most beautiful words shared between two hearts are the ones found in letters written just before someone dies when their journey on earth is almost done–when they have nothing left unfinished other than to share one last message of faith, hope, and love.

From a Mother’s Heart

I found the following letter the day after my mother died. She had tucked it in amongst her belongings and I discovered it when I searched for personal documents. Her words say so much about her character, about the value of life, and about the certainty of death.

Olive's Great Grandsons, Jacob and Joshua

Olive's Great Grandsons, Jacob and Joshua

Dear Barbara,

I know you will miss me but don’t be too sad. Just think as if I have gone away for awhile and you will see me again.

I want you to remember the good times we had together, the leg slapping laughs that we shared and the wonderful trips we were privileged to take out west and in the States. I was so happy that you were willing to take me along. Thank you very much.

Barbara, please don’t cry too much. Remember you have a family depending on you and you must take care of yourself in order to care for them. Keep in touch with your brothers and try to get everyone together once in awhile. Take care of your father; I love him very much as I love all of you. My children and grandchildren mean the world to me.

It would be nice to live and watch the little people*  growing up, but God’s will is best, and whether He chooses to take me soon or later on, I am ready. And I know that one day we will all meet again.

I will be waiting for all of you.

I want to leave a favourite Bible verse with you. Romans 14:8 – “If we live, we live to the LORD, and if we die, we die to the LORD. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the LORD.”

God bless you and keep you in His loving care.

All my love,

Mom

* When Olive died, the “little people”  to which she referred were her grandchildren who ranged in age from five months to twelve years of age. They’re all grown up now and a new generation of “little people” have arrived. My mom would have been so thrilled to be a part of the lives of her great grandchildren.

When the Dealer Deals Your Last Hand

This poignant contemplation on life was entrusted to me with the request that, due to the sensitive nature of its revelations, the author remain anonymous. It is a tribute to a man who lived his life the only way he knew how…as a gentleman. He mailed this letter to a pre-selected list of individuals a couple days before he took his last breath.

Reminiscences of an Old Man about Illness and the Foibles of Life with its many Existences

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 17:33.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails

It is interesting that during my recent serious illness and stay in hospital, several changes in my personal status seemed to have taken place without my guidance or intervention.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1.

Illness is a very demanding malady as it creates in the mind the feeling that you are no longer the robust person that you had always imagined. In my case, I soon realized that my status in the home had drastically altered. No longer was I the cook, kitchen operator, and general “in charge” factotum, but in fact, my role had changed from being a provider and doer, to being cast in the role of “dependant.”

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”Job 1:21.

As a dependant, any previous participation was gone, and my requests were in the realm of being a distraction, a pest, an interruption of an established routine, and a needy element that was disrupting the normal flow of what had once been a rational household.

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.” Psalm 71: 9.

The great loss of weight and difficulty in breathing, along with total loss of energy to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, has been most discouraging in my recovery. However, I have to realize that I have suffered a serious illness and my body organs have taken a severe pounding from the many drugs used to combat the diverticulitis and congestive heart failure. So, it is one day at a time, and I shouldn’t get discouraged too early!

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” Hebrews 12:1, 2.

During the Christmas stay in the hospital I lived through several very traumatic experiences that caused me to review life and its many foibles.

Gasping for the very next breath with congestive heart failure is stressful in the extreme, but having to walk through your own feces on the continual trip to the toilet is just dreadful and disgusting. The embarrassment of wearing diapers may not be wished for, but was very necessary. The shame of calling for help, when everything has spewed up your back, down your legs and all over your genitals, is so very distressing and humiliating to one’s ego.

“Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.” Psalm 25:20-21.

At times like this, peripheral vision disappears and each moment is dreadfully focused on survival. Little things become huge. A nurse holding your hand, rubbing our back and saying a few words of encouragement is everything at that very moment and so meaningful.

The overall joy of being cleaned up, and wearing a fresh diaper meant volumes. Resting under a warm blanket, although still gasping for every breath, was like reaching an oasis. Each little item, each further moment, meant so much, and that refreshing sip of cool apple juice in the early dawn light tasted so good knowing that you had lived through a night of abject hell and fear.

“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25: 40.  A simple act of kindness by a nameless nurse touches a dying man’s heart and blesses him and her.

The margin between fighting on or giving in to weakness becomes a very real choice and could easily be made in the wrong direction.

“I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn. My skin is cracked and breaks out afresh.” Job 7: 4, 5b, 11b.

With the continual fight for breath other parts of your body start to show their effects. The brain is somewhat starved of oxygen and one suffers from slight dementia. Angels appear at the end of your bed, while off to the left, the grim Reaper leers his skeletal toothy grin from under his cowled cloak. In the far distance, yet still over the horizon, one imagines the glow of the Pearly Gates awaiting their summons. So you lie on the bed utterly and totally exhausted waiting for the dawn that will hopefully bring some relief from this time of dreadful torment, fear, and trauma.

“In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake.” Job 4:13, 14.

Under this diminished mental sanity your long past monsters now appear, parading across your memory, mocking your agony with every step. Like huge ugly, dirty hippos rising from the muddy lake of regret and despair, they force their way into your memory. Those angry words spoken under the stress of caring, worry and concern that can never be taken back—and never be forgiven.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”  Psalm 51: 1-3.

The dreadful heart wrenching agony of loss is indescribable. Wading through the morass and heavy fog of grief with the knowledge that one so close—your beautiful, so very young wife—has gone out of your life, dead to cancer, is too horrific to contemplate.

“Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea—“ Job 6:2, 3a.

It seems the very lamp of life is fluttering. No one—no one who has not experienced this horrendous grief, can honestly know of the total depth of one’s sole and the void left there forever. Yet pervading through this grief is the knowledge that tomorrow you must get up and pull on your socks because you are now the only one, the sole provider for your children—cook, consoler, safety net, and advisor. You are now the only parent and responsibility beckons.

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.””Genesis 2:18.

And then they come—the well-meaning ones. They hug, kiss, and shake your hand, and smile, trotting out those trite hackneyed “Hallmark card” sayings that no doubt make them feel better but most have no idea of the underlying churning feelings. You let them go without comment, because this is not their battle, this is not their war. Perhaps theirs will come at another place and at another time.

“Though I speak, my grief is not relieved; And if I remain silent, how am I eased? Job 16:6.

Sadly, in this race of life, there are no rest stops, no pullovers, no waiting areas where one can rest your head on the steering wheel and take a nap. The race of life sadly allows no breathers.

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.

Later, through this journey, and in thoughtfully happier times, one is abruptly awakened to the shocking fact that you are no longer the man you thought you were. Someone has taken your place and now find yourself no longer on the A-Team. You have been replaced in the mind of others.

In the last hand of life, there are no aces

In the last hand of life, there are no aces

“He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes.”Job 30:19.

You are aware that someone else attracts the attention you once held. Someone with perhaps more money, more interesting conversation, or with other assets that you no longer possess, is ahead of you. Someone to E-mail morning and evening, with little bon mots of information you are now no longer privy to, as before, You have been replaced and your stature has been downgraded. The truth is all too abundantly clear. You are now just an ailing decrepit old man, married to a much younger attractive woman.

“Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” Song of Solomon 2:2.

As you walk over to the gaming table, you are all too aware that your assets have gone and those bargaining chips you once held have already been played. Picking up your cards from the green cloth, you slowly spread the cards like a seasoned gambler and realize the blunt truth. In the last hand of life, there are no aces.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me;” Psalm 23: 4.

Biting your lip, you cry a little and then smile, because you know now there is only one game in town. A bright positive outlook—for all to see.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30: 5b.

Signed,

The Face in the Mirror

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Bible

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