Thanks to some dear friends who invited us into their island home last week, Melanie and I were able to take our first vacation since the stroke changed our lives. I was happy for Melanie since the burden of taking care of me has fallen heavily on her. She still had to take care of me but this gave her a needed break in our routines.
Although we had a whole week scheduled, we only stayed three nights. The Florida weather turned cold and windy. So we gave up the beach for Lent.
While in the new surroundings I learned to make friends with a bathroom that had never needed the grab bars we’ve had added at our house. We continue to pray the Lord will send the day that I don’t need them there, either.
Our plans to get away from it all proved impossible on another level. The day before we started out, we got a message from Melanie’s brother. He had taken his wife to the emergency room. Tests had revealed a large tumor in her brain. It is inoperable.
This news continues a strange pattern I’ve noticed.
Four years ago, we came home rested from a vacation. One month later, my father died. Three years ago, the first night of our vacation, we got the phone call telling Melanie her dear friend and prayer partner had died. Two years ago, shortly after returning from our last vacation, one good friend died suddenly and then I nearly died from a stroke. Now we have the wife of Melanie’s brother.
I have been realizing, especially after praying for myself the past 15 months, that I don’t know what to say to Melanie’s brother. Slowly I have realized we’ve reached the season of life where it has become impossible to ignore the humiliation of death that faces us all. No matter what we do to stay well and healthy, no matter what temporary recoveries we see, the transition gets closer than ever.
I know that sounds shallow and dumb. Until now, I found it much easier to put the thought out of my mind. Now when I pray for the Lord to heal me, I’m left with the thought that a healing now could only briefly delay the moment, the humiliation that death brings to this life.
Dust thou art. To dust thou will return. The Ash Wednesday declaration echoes all year long.
Of course, there is the other humiliation of death that we will mark in 40 days, when Jesus humiliated death by rising from the tomb. In anticipation of that joy, Jesus endured the shame of the cross.
A few years ago, during the season of Lent, I was at a church that had a large cross right in the main aisle up to the altar. I was behind one of the older saints, watching as she walked up the aisle. She paused by that cross, and then threw her arms around it, kissing it.