"PLEASE LET ME DIE!"
By: Dan Revoir
I was having a discussion with my two brothers who work in a jeweler's shop. The topic was old gold. They had several old brooches and necklaces, and some well worn rings. At first appearance it seemed to be just a bunch of worthless junk costume jewelry. My brother John laughed at my observation, saying there's no such thing as junk jewelry because it merely needed to be put in a crucible and melted, and it would once again become pure gold. The crucible is a container which withstands very high temperatures and it is used to melt precious metals. The gold of my faith had been gathered in bits and pieces through accidents, surgeries, and a variety of pain. Some of which seemed to be useless or of no consequence like the junk gold. But it was as though God was putting them all into an unseen crucible to which there was still another element that needed to be added before it could be put into the furnace.
PAIN, BUT NO SCARS...
There is a broad spectrum of pain that can range from discomfort at one end, to excruciating, agonizing pain which will drive a person to the verge of suicide. I talked with a doctor one day about the most severe pain a person can endure. Of course, a person's tolerance for pain is a decided factor. But there is pain that is worse than physical pain. Pain that rips and tears the heart and soul but never leaves a visible scar. He enumerated the four worst pains a person can experience in the medical realm: An aneurysm (or the ballooning of an artery in the heart) before it ruptures; a tick that goes through the cheek like a red hot rod of steel; a person in the advanced stages of bone cancer; and acute pancreatitis. These pains are impervious to any pain medication and can cause those patients to commit suicide out of sheer desperation. It is pain which makes you sick in your innermost being, when you have that overwhelming, depressing, feeling that no one in the world can understand, unless they've been there.
Several years ago our "adopted" daughter Sharon, after having a doctor examine her little girl, Heather, listened in unbelief as he crushed her world with the news that she had a brain tumor. Little Heather's world became composed of never-ending tests, painful procedures, surgeries to remove the insidious cancer. Heather's plaintive cry was, "Mommy, please don't leave me!"
Sharon went through the shocked numbness of knowing this beautiful little girl was losing her life and death struggle with an enemy that could not be conquered. She stood watching day after day, month after month, seeing her baby die a little more. And she heard this courageous little fighter's words, "Mommy, I'm going to go see Jesus." At five years old, little Heather left the arms of her mother to be carried in the arms of Jesus.
Mark 10:13-16, "...AND HE TOOK THEM UP IN HIS ARMS, PUT HIS HANDS UPON THEM, AND BLESSED THEM."
What is the relevance of Sharon's emotional pain and a little girl that I've never had the privilege of meeting? Sharon counsels with Martha and me, and because of God's testing in our lives, her pain has become our pain. And her mourning has become ours. That's pain and scars and hurt that never stop. Wounds that never heal. You may have received news that a loved one is critically ill or be facing a terminal illness yourself. Yes, there may be some scars in your life. They would not be visible to a doctor's examination. That's why I want to comfort you because I've been there also!
On December 6, 1984, the phone rang in my study and to my surprise, it was my youngest brother, John, calling from Mississippi. This was unusual because I did not receive many calls from my family. My two brothers, Jim and John, and my sister, Bonnie, were transplanted "Yankees", having moved there for my father's health. John's voice had an ominous sound of foreboding, and as he spoke I knew something was wrong.
"Hello Dan, I thought I had better call you and let you know mom just had a heart attack. How long will it take you to get here? She really needs you!"
In my mind flashed vivid memories of my father's multiple heart attacks and eventual death. (His heart had been so damaged the doctors could not get an EKG reading. According to all medical knowledge he should not have lived as long as he did). And two years ago I went through the whole "nine yards" myself. And now my precious mother's life was in imminent danger, in a hospital 1,000 miles away from me. I told John that I would be there as soon as possible.
We could not afford to have Martha go with me, so the plane reservation was made and the 250-mile trip to Detroit seemed like an eternity.
Yes, I suffered mental anguish, that gut-wrenching feeling of helplessness that overwhelms one's complete being. The words of the old song, "WHERE COULD I GO?" by James B. Coats kept going through my mind during the flight:
Living below in
this old sinful world,
Hardly a comfort can afford;
Striving along to
face temptations (testings) sore,
Where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go,
Seeking a refuge for
Needing a friend to help me in the end,
Where could I go but to the Lord?
My prayers during my flight were for my precious mom, begging and pleading with my Father, in His love and mercy to sustain her life.
My sister, Bonnie, met my flight in New Orleans and we started the 120 mile trip back to Hattiesburg. It seemed like time stood still and we would never get to the hospital. Walking into her room and seeing her chalky gray complexion, the oxygen tubes in her nose, and the weak shallow breathing, a lump formed in my throat. I was fighting back the tears that filled my eyes and the urge to rush to her and hold her. I wanted to tell her how much I love her, that she is more precious than life itself. But common sense prevailed over my emotions as I realized the importance of not exciting her. I kissed her on the cheek and said, "Mom, I'm here now! Everything is going to be all right." She opened her eyes and smiled at me, and as we held hands a look of peace and contentment was on her face. Only this son and his mother could understand the volumes spoken by that expression of love.
Later in a conference with her doctor, the gravity of the situation was impressed upon us. His prognosis: her condition was very critical and a second heart attack was imminent, probably within a few hours. But I had already talked to the Great Physician and believed God would keep her from harm's way. After the next 24 hours, she started to improve. At first it was almost imperceptible, but then daily she started to regain her strength. "Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh from above", and God was giving her the gift of life.
God also gave me the privilege of helping several families who had loved ones critically ill in ICU. I was allowed to counsel with them, pray with them, to hold hands and to hug them during the critical times. And yes, even to weep with them when their loved ones died. God gave me these beautiful friends who suffered the common bond of sorrow.
Three days before Christmas, struggling with my need to be with my mother, yet my responsibility and desire to spend Christmas with my family, I made a decision that nearly tore my heart out. On the day before I had to leave for home, mom and I had a long talk. It was to prepare her for the next step in the wonderful world of the heart patient. As soon as she regained her strength, they would probably do a catheterization and I wanted to prepare her for that procedure so she wouldn't be anxious or afraid. I carefully explained each step, reassuring her that there would be no pain except for the local anesthesia. Little did I realize just how soon they would do it.
As we started to drive away from the hospital, I looked up to my mother's room window: she had struggled out of her bed and was standing at the window waving goodbye to me. I knew she was crying and the floodgates of my heart broke again and I sobbed uncontrollably on the way to the airport.
It was Wednesday, December 26th, and upper Michigan was experiencing the worst blizzard of the year; the weather was ferocious. It definitely was a good day to be inside. Again, the phone rang. (Is it possible to hate inanimate objects)? It was my brother John again. His voice was filled with fear. I was almost yelling as I asked him what was wrong, dreading his awful message. He said my Mom had had a heart catheterization that morning and they had rushed her in the helicopter to Jackson. She needed bypass surgery tomorrow but refused to have it unless I was there. In more panic, I informed him that we were having a terrible blizzard, and that I didn't know how but I would be there that night.
As Martha packed my suitcase, Doug (my son) called the Grand Rapids airport, telling them I had to get out of Michigan that day. It was impossible: Christmas holiday. The entire state was in the ravages of ice, snow and gale-force winds. Travel warnings were being broadcast on television.
"Father, it is impossible but you are the God of the impossible! Help me, Father! Please, I beg you, let me be with mom tonight."
Doug managed to get a ticket to Chicago, which was my first encouragement. So Doug and his wife, Wini, and I prepared to leave for Grand Rapids. There were tears, farewells, and kissing goodbye as we started the hazardous 130 mile drive. Cars were in the ditches, traffic was moving at a crawl, and the roads were treacherous. Doug drove the car like a race car driver pushing the car and us to the very limits of sanity. The plane reservation was for 3 pm and I had to be there. The car never skidded or was out of control during the whole agonizing trip. My Father was guiding Doug's hands and reflexes.
We rushed into the airport which was filled with holiday travelers, and in horror I looked at the monitor of arriving and departing flights. Almost all of them were canceled because of the blizzard. The agent behind the desk informed us that almost all flights were canceled and probably O'Hare Airport would shut down within the hour. There I was, stranded in an airport and the possibility of getting out of Michigan looked very bleak, to say the least. Then the agent hit me with a bomb, saying I probably could not get out of O'Hare anyway since they were completely iced in.
"Father, you brought us this far safely and I do not believe you are going to leave me in this airport. God, I trust you and I believe you have heard my prayer and will answer." The public address system interrupted my pleading with my Father, and my spirit soared like a great jet. "Flight 867 has left from Chicago and shall arrive in approximately 20 minutes." That was my flight! Just a coincidence?! NO! My Father is in control of everything in this universe.
As we approached Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to land, the pilot opened the engines wide open and the plane climbed like a homesick angel. "There is nothing to be alarmed about," he said over the intercom, "the plane that landed before us just slid off the runway." And sure enough as I looked out of the window, I could see the huge jetliner sliding around on the mammoth runway, like a duck trying to land on ice. It seemed as if all the passengers in the aircraft had stopped breathing. There was absolutely not a sound from anyone, only the screaming whine of the jet engines at full power. At this point, saying there was considerable apprehension is an understatement. So once again we circled O'Hare with air traffic backed up as far as you could see. As we made the final approach, we all took a collective deep breath, and after touching down, there was a tremendous sigh of relief.
Disembarking from the plane, I literally ran to an information desk and started babbling incoherently. I had to get out of Chicago. My mother was having surgery and I had to be there that night. Anywhere south, but I had to end up in Jackson, Mississippi! The poor man must have thought I was demented by the look on his face as he told me there was a plane leaving for Atlanta, Georgia immediately. I implored him to please call them and have them hold the plane for me. This was my only chance to get to my mother!
"Run to terminal gate 21 and quick!"
"What about my luggage?" I asked.
"Do you want to dress or get to Mississippi?" he asked.
I ran through the endless terminals like O. J. Simpson in a "Hertz" commercial until seeing the number I needed. They were waiting to shut the door. My Father's timing is always perfect. Great is our God and greatly to be praised. There is nothing in this world that compares to the peace, comfort and assurance of being led by the hand of God.
About 1:30 a.m. I walked into my mom's room and the peace of God filled my spirit and soul, and in my mother's eyes it was plain to see there was no fear, just a calmness and tranquility that comes from the grace and mercy of God, during times of seemingly endless affliction. As my Father promised, His grace was sufficient, and in His tender love and compassion, He brought mom through surgery, and has brought her to the place of living a normal life once again. Praise His Holy Name!
It was through these experiences that God taught me about comfort, being able to empathize, to encourage, and to give counsel from His Word. Words have tremendous power to wound, to cripple, to kill, or to comfort, to heal, to edify, and to promote emotional health which brings us to the "C" of comfort.
The Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 1 tells us that there is only one source of comfort, and that the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble. I may suffer and feel the comfort of God, but then he may use me to likewise comfort others. So God indeed may have a purpose for my affliction, to use me as a care giver.
"I Know Exactly How You Feel!"
Probably one of the most empty clauses in all the world is, "I know exactly how you feel!" Especially when you know that person has never experienced the physical or emotional trauma you are going through at that time. Besides failing to give any comfort, these words can drive one deeper into depression and discouragement, sometimes causing anger and frustration because the words are empty and meaningless. Conversely, many times a person who has suffered the same affliction, can be an invaluable source of encouragement and support.
During my pastoral ministry, a great number of calls were made on the sick and hospitalized. I know three young ladies who as quadriplegics, are destined to live out their lives in wheelchairs. And Lori will live her life on a breathing machine, as well. Yet in Pam, Lori, and Jan, there is a tremendous love for God and a complete submission to His will for their lives. had the privilege of becoming involved in the lives of these very heroic ladies.
Lori was so severely injured in a car accident that she was not only completely paralyzed, but she could not breathe on her own. But after a few visits with her we were able to communicate quite readily. In fact, I was accustomed to lying on the floor beneath her breathing machine so we could "talk" face to face when she was inverted. As we talked about her horse, her dog, and the things of God, she would smile and radiate a joy and peace that only God can give. And instead of comforting her, I came away having received a blessing and encouragement myself. Her parents told me that Lori witnessed to everyone about the love and mercy of God. And in turn, she became a comforter to everyone she met. I also was in the learning process, a very difficult school to be sure. But it was through these experiences that God taught me about comfort, being able to empathize, to encourage, and to give counsel from His Word.
Two other ladies who suffered affliction and physical handicaps were still used greatly for the glory of God. Both were vibrant testimonies and have affected the lives of literally millions of people.
You may be familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada. In July of 1967, as a young girl of 17 years old, she dove into the Chesapeake Bay while swimming that day. Her neck was broken and the spinal cord severed and she has been confined to a wheelchair since her recovery. As a young teenager she had a hard time at first, accepting that fact.
Later she realized that God had a plan for her life and a purpose for her suffering. She now is an author and an artist of international acclaim. She paints by holding the pen or paint brush in her mouth. She also sings, performing concerts internationally. Her life has made a tremendous impact. All for the glory of her Lord. We can only imagine the many handicapped persons who have been inspired and encouraged by her yielded life.
The other woman was a gifted song writer, Fanny Crosby, who wrote more than 8,000 gospel songs, although totally blind from the age of six weeks. She was never bitter about her blindness. A preacher once told her in sympathy, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight, when He gave you so many other gifts." To which she quickly replied, "If I had been able to make one request to God at birth, it would have been to be born blind...because when I get to heaven the first face that I see will be that of my Savior."
All of these ladies were able to look beyond the scope of their suffering and physical handicaps, to see God's purpose and God's will for service. It would have been so easy for each of them to withdraw from reality and enter into the lonely solitude of self pity.
I drank from that cup also. Not that my problems were anything compared to theirs, but in a small way, I have been there and can see God has taught me and others how to comfort those who are suffering affliction. This even, can be a source of comfort and assurance to realize that God permits us to go through physical and emotional pain in order to empathize and help others who may be struggling with the same pain. This gives me balance in dealing with the light affliction I have suffered.
One source of comfort I received during all this confusion and chaos was a letter from a pastor who was aware of the testings in our lives. I have torn all my files apart, searched through a ton of literature trying to find that letter, but to no avail. So I must interpolate what words of encouragement he wrote.
"Dear Pastor Dan,
I have been following the events which have been happening in your life. And I wanted to tell you, God does not trust all His children with suffering! You must be very special to Him!"
I truly hope and believe that God used that dear brother to encourage my heart in the Lord. And I am eternally grateful for the message that brought peace to my soul and spirit as I realized that true comfort only comes from God.
It was a hopeless, endless struggle,
through confusion, fear and pain,
And losing every battle
as I struggled alone in vain.
I was reaching out an eager heart
for hope and strength and peace.
And finding only emptiness,
my anguish would increase
It wasn't solid ground I walked
as I struggled day to day,
And I finally sat in helplessness,
knowing not the way.
I lifted mine eyes up to the hills,
and was cleansed of all my fears,
For in the joy of knowing God,
I saw His rainbow through my tears.
Psalms 121: 1 - 2
By: Christina Goforth
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