"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost."
I Timothy 1:15
When I was 13 I began attending a Baptist church in the town I lived in at the time. I went because all the really cool kids went. They offered Friday night pizza and games. My parents were newly divorced. My dad had just been sent to Iraq for a tour after marrying his new wife a day after the divorce was final. My mother was spiraling into a deep depression along with a chronic illness and rarely got out of bed. I suddenly found myself without any anchor or security. I had no place. I couldn’t stand being at home with the misery. There was no other family around. Not many knew my life had been blasted to bits. This church was bright and fun. I had been raised in the Church of Christian Scientists. This loud, boisterous approach to God was so foreign, yet inviting.
Being born and raised in the military afforded me a lot of interesting opportunities. It also made me the new kid a lot!! For a shy introvert this is not a blessing. I hated moving, hated new schools, hated losing familiar ground. After my dad left, I lost my person. He had a new wife with younger children. I felt abandoned. My mother and sister were very close. I felt like the odd man out. Deep soul altering hurts. I was very frank in the way I spoke at the time. I was the “why” kid. It drove everyone around me crazy. It got me yelled at a lot! It’s why I quit talking period. So, latching onto these girls was all I had. There was a summer camp that I just had to go to, because they were going. The cool girls never talked to me, but Jesus did! We met there on a hill in the hot Texas summer. I got it. I had always known about God, Heaven and Jesus, but not like this. He found me there. I left Him many times after that. Got lost a whole lot, but He never left me.
My grandmother died when I was nine. We had just moved to be closer to the family. I knew she had had cancer. Every woman in my family seemed to get cancer. They all got it but got better. She had gotten better once before. Her maiden name was Bell. She collected bells. My dad always brought her one when we visited. This last visit we brought her a brass Captain’s bell. She was laying on her side in a cool dark room. I asked what was wrong. She said her head hurt, but was better now that we were there. It hit me how truly miserable she looked and how much pain she must be in. I also thought, she wants to die. It’s time. She had no more fight left in her. I told her I knew it would be better soon. She rang the bell once and we put it under her bed. Later that night we were woken up and told that she had been taken to the hospital. My plain spoken self said the words out loud that I had thought earlier. She would die in the morning. Having 6 adults come at you at once is hard as a kid. I stood my ground with the argument of she gets to go to heaven. I shouted this! I thought we all wanted to go to heaven? It’s where God makes the cancer go away and her head won’t hurt. It’s a good thing! It got me solitary confinement in another room.
Now, as an adult I know they all were hurting. My bold upfront approach had once again gotten me yelled at. I spoke their fear of losing their mother into existence. But, I knew then and I know now that I was right. She died as the sun rose that morning. My dad came to tell me. I knew she was gone. I felt the energy shift. I was happy for her. Truly! I celebrated her homecoming day! This thought process and belief in the goodness of death has sustained throughout my life. That’s not to say I celebrated losing people. My grandmother was only 54 years old. She was very young. I didn’t celebrate the loss of her here in this world. I celebrated the freeing of her body from all I knew she suffered with. It sucked being left behind. We all were left in a world that was a definitely darker without her cheeky jokes, her honest and open heart, the best decorated Christmas trees and matching wrapping paper. The goodness she brought had left us. She reminded me to be a lady, when all that gangly girl child wildness was overrunning my self-control. She never made me feel bad about it, just reminded me to reign it in a bit.
When I became a nurse I was very afraid to “code” or resuscitate someone. It’s scary, controlled chaos. I was fearful of my ability to remain calm and clinically do what I was required to do. Ironically, God closed all the job opportunity doors I wanted and opened only one. The Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This is not where I had wanted to be when I started this journey. It was the furthest place actually. I was beyond afraid and even more overwhelmed. The line between life and death here is minuscule and often blurred. How to navigate this?! Well, the universe sent me on a ride for sure. I got over my fear very quickly!
On my first night on my own (super scary to do this by the way!) my patient was fairly stable. She was on a BiPAP machine to help open her lungs up and improve her breathing. While wearing this mask she was talking and hollering. I went in to see if she was comfortable and to see what the fussing was about. She wanted the dog to be let in. I reminded her she was in the hospital. She agreed she forgot, but swore the dog was at the back door. She then exclaimed at how beautiful her room was. Now, this room was anything but beautiful. But I agreed the wallpaper was pretty. This went on for hours. Each time the room was more beautiful and more people were there to visit. It was the middle of the night. There were no visitors. Her daughters called to check in and they confirmed that all the people she was speaking of had passed. Even the dog she said wanted in had long since been gone. I urged them to come sit with her. Her wishes were to be allowed to pass with no intervention.
Near sunrise her breathing changed. She began to pull at the mask, so it was removed with her daughter’s permission. She told us as plain as anything that Jesus was at her bedside. She said the room was golden and so bright. It was 5 in the morning and the unit was dark. We watched as her time here ended and she entered heaven. It was by far the most amazingly heartbreaking moment. There are countless other moments that come to mind. The meth addict who overdosed. She thrashed and fought. No amount of medication calmed or sedated her. I prayed all night at that bedside as I worked that Jesus would come and save her from whatever demon she fought with. Again, as the sun rose we lost the physical battle for her body, but about 20 min before she became eerily calm and peaceful. Her heart rate, blood pressure and breathing stabilized. Her face relaxed. Her eyes closed and she looked so serene. I know in that moment that whatever had gone wrong in her life had been made right. That she had been saved and Jesus was once again in the room.
The retired preacher who screamed about false prophets and whose family reported that he was a fiery man of God, but that he was a tough man to love and live with. He began to sing softly one night and speak very softly. I asked who he was speaking to. He responded his little son was there. I immediately called his wife. She reported that they had lost their first son to drowning when he was just 3 years old. Her husband had never been the same. I told her that he was speaking to him and that she should come. When she entered the room he began to cry and told her that their boy had visited. He welcomed her touch and held her hand. Something that had not happened in a very long time. The miracles of death played out in a tiny ICU hospital room.
These are the moments for me that solidify the realness of God.
I’ve seen Him so many times in so many ways. Those success stories that everyone loves. They come down to the moment of surrender. When you walk the walk and pray the prayer. When you invite Jesus into your heart and life. The moment you promise so you can be with Him forever. Those are the moments that lead to that final day. The best day! I know I have work still left to do, but that day I get to stop and step into His presence! That’s the whole reason he came and found me on that hill at church camp. It’s why He whispered the peace I needed when my grandmother died. It’s why He walks the halls of the hospital with me as I stand watch over those lives entrusted to my care. None of it was my plan. A lot of it was me trying to force the plan and getting myself locked into tight spots that only He had the key to. It's why no matter how scary the nightly news or the state of the economy, the never ending hustle of daily life I know who loves me. I know He has saved a place for me. I know because I have seen Him. I have felt Him. He has walked before me, behind me, above me and below me. He saved me when I didn’t see any reason to be saved. To watch as He quieted the storm within the addict and wrestled her away from the devil himself. That is living in a dying world.
Praying all good things in Him always.
Hey, HighPoint Church! Interested in writing?