Friday, December 22, 2017
It's Okay to Wish Me a Merry Christmas
The recent death of my brother has put many people with whom I come in contact in a bind. They don’t know what to say during this time of grief that has been placed in what should be known as Christmas joy. Some shuffle their feet. Some look to the ground. Some avoid looking me in the eye. And others, well, they just avoid it all together and say nothing at all. I so appreciate their sensitivity to our family’s situation, our loss, but let me just put you at rest: it’s okay to wish me a merry Christmas.
Thomas was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma in October of 2014. The worst of the worst. But even then, we were not without hope. After all, isn’t hope what you hang on to in dire situations? It was for us. Surgeries pursued. The family was introduced to a new normal that at times even looked like the old normal. Thomas continued practicing dentistry. Leading worship in church. Taking vacations with his family and even running in 5K’s. We held tightly to hope. Hope that Thomas would be completely healed and live to walk his 2 daughter’s down the aisle. Our hope gained fresh ground as MRI’s kept coming back as “stable.” Yes, hope. Until two and half years later when we received the news: “There has been some progression.” And finally the doctor’s pronouncement, “We have exhausted all avenues of treatment.”
What does one do with that?
Well, you hope.
What followed was 3 months of rapid decline. Thomas lost his ability to process information or convert what his eyes were seeing. Visiting Angels were called in. Then Hospice. He went from walking, to a wheelchair and then to a bed. And in each stage, he remained so gentle. So kind. So Thomas. And through it all, he remained faithful to the hope he had found in Jesus so long, long ago. His one longing was to glorify His God through it all. And that's exactly what he did.
Hope remained alive in us as well. As the family was gathered around Thomas' bed in those last hours and minutes, we sang everything from “Jesus Loves Me” to “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” to “Because He Lives.” Yes, hope. We spoke words of blessings. Prayed prayers. Read Scripture. Moments before he took his last gentle breath, his wife Bristol quietly asked the children, “What is our only comfort in life and death?” And together they recited the answer to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. It was a very sacred and holy moment as they declared together over their father:
“That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.”
And thus is the legacy Thomas leaves. To his wife. To his 5 children. To all who knew him. A legacy of hope because his faith was fully in Christ Jesus.
I have said so many times that this has been our greatest sadness to date, but we have never been nor are we now without hope. So, it’s okay to wish me a merry Christmas, for Christmas is when God made good on His promise to send that Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world to be our salvation, our restoration, our deliverance, and ultimately, our hope.
So to you and yours, merry Christmas and bright hope for tomorrow.
Just an ordinary moment…