Hi, friends. I usually sit on drafts for a while before polishing and posting them; however, this week has been too extraordinary for me to stick to the normal routine. So, I write this post Sunday as I anxiously await news updates.
Waiting for a Loved One to Die
On Oct. 31 in Oak Ridge, NC, an 11-year-old boy was hit by a car while crossing the road during a church trunk-or-treat. When I read the headline to the breaking news, I felt shocked and saddened. A few hours later, as I scrolled through Instagram, I came across a post from an old friend whose brother grew up with me in youth group–a picture of his young son with a caption asking for prayers. I realized with horror that the 11-year-old victim was Noah Chambers, a boy whose family I knew well. As I type this rough draft, Noah is unresponsive in ICU, and several brain scans over the last couple days showed no activity. As I try to go about normal life, I keep picturing the scene unfolding in the hospital, and my heart aches for them.
You see, up until recently, I never knew the experience of waiting for a loved one to die…but in May, my boyfriend’s grandpa became deathly ill, and we sat in the hospital room for a full day. He had fought a long, hard war with cancer for several years, and though he’d been admitted to the hospital before, this time was different. Those of us camped out in the room cried for a while, calmed down and distracted ourselves with idle conversation, then broke down and cried some more–back and forth, over and over on an emotional roller coaster. Each time a new visitor entered the room, it was inevitable that we’d all be in tears again. Meanwhile, his grandpa never stirred; he somehow looked pitiful and peaceful simultaneously. The object of all our sorrow was both in the room with us and a million miles away.
Now that I’ve gone through that process, I can better sympathize with others going through it. As I edit this draft, Noah has been taken off life support. Showcasing the positive side of social media, friends and strangers alike have showered the family with prayers, messages, and donations. Now that they’ve officially lost their baby, they need that encouragement more than ever.
The Horror of Death & Hope in Jesus
I realized a few things at the death of Grandpa Jim and again now.
[Trigger Warning: these are the kind of musings that can lead to an existential crisis.]
For one, death is absolutely devastating. About 95% of the time, we think real life is jobs and houses and cars and holidays and the news and all our silly hustle and bustle. But when I attended Grandpa Jim’s funeral, the tense, irrevocable, heavy sadness in the air was palpable. This was part of the 5% when real life feels way too real. In those 5% times, the world keeps turning, but we feel paralyzed, distanced from the hustle and bustle that was so important yesterday. In those 5% times, I see with stark clarity how little almost everything I care about actually matters. In the face of death–of a loved one, of soldiers at war, of civilians during war, of the victims of genocide, of children with leukemia, etc.–who cares that my blog post got less stars this week, or I got a B instead of an A on my exam, or I need to get a new wheelchair that isn’t squeaky, or I got this shirt on sale for $10? Grandpa Jim is gone. Little Noah is gone.
In those 5% times, I’m glad I have hope in Jesus Christ–hope that He will return to the earth and we will rise up, restored in “spiritual bodies” on a transformed earth. This morning, as I read verses which refer to that future, I feel consoled. O, grave, where is your victory? O, death, where is your sting? Jim and Noah are not gone; I will see them again.
Making Every Day Matter
The second point is oft-repeated enough that it may fall on deaf ears, but I’ll declare it anyway: every day matters. We need to visit that person we’ve been meaning to visit, call that person we’ve been meaning to call. Life is just too fleeting to count on tomorrow. Grandpa Jim had been sick for a long time, and Noah was just a normal kid last week, but no one was prepared for either of them to leave us when they did.
We need to glorify God with our lives and be His disciples in this world. Pray, read scripture, engage with mission work. Forgive those who’ve wronged us and meet people where they are with mercy and grace. Both Jim and Noah are remembered for the incredible people they were and the light they brought to the world; I want to leave a legacy like that.
The other day, a friend made the comment to someone else, “Can I just work for a few more years, THEN I’ll go back to church?” He turned to me and clarified that he was only joking…
But this is how people tend to think–always planning around a hypothetical, uncertain future. We should stop “putting off to tomorrow that which can be done today” (Benjamin Franklin) and start making a difference right here, right now. Also, we should remember that the hustle and bustle is not actually that important, and we need to turn our eyes up to the eternal.
Please pray for God to surround each member of Noah Chambers’ family with strength to carry on, peace that surpasses understanding, and the grace of Jesus, which supplements our weakness.
Thanks for reading. Have you ever had the tragic “waiting for a loved one to die” experience? What is your outlook on life and making every day matter? Let me know in the comments.