Home from the hospice

The place was so familiar. But it was a new world.

Sitting in the chapel, our son ran around his baby cousin excitedly, patting her head and stroking her face. It was like a scene from the old world – Josiah, proud of his baby sister.

But that was a world we buried – with her – only one week before.

My brother-in-law saw the tears falling off my chin. He put his hand on my shoulder.

“So much death,” I whispered. “Just so much death.”

We were led down the hospice corridors which had become so familiar over ten weeks and six days. We walked past the coffee machine. Past the family room. Past the open doors revealing people – those wounded and waiting in the great War of Life.

Down. We went down. Because who can be raised up who didn’t first fall down?

The War

We entered a room that felt unreal. Seeing death is to disbelieve your eyes.

Joanna and I looked into her mother’s - the eyes that we could still see smiling at us days before; the eyes she would so often scrunch up into her cheeks when something was funny.

Her arms, so often raised in worship, lay like logs. Her tongue that sang the praises of God wouldn’t even stammer. Her lips, dry.

We cried. The eyes play tricks.

“It looks like she’s breathing” - the words of someone whose eyes weren’t made to see a heart that doesn’t beat.

She lay under a sheet. But where was mum? Her silence screamed that she was no longer there. She’d been taken. Stolen from us. Rage. Be angry! Hate sin whose wages are death (Romans 6:23). Sin stole her. Sin ravaged our world.

The world. This life. And its war.

Was this room real? This contradiction which held the horror of my lifeless mother-in-law, and the humdrum of soft-furnishings and stone ornaments? Can life and death share air?

Worlds collide. The old and the new. So much death.

The World

We knew where she was. She wasn’t in that room.

She’d fought the good fight. She’d soldiered (2 Timothy 2:3). Through crisis and curse. Through trial and temptation – the great tribulation. She’d walked.

Waded.

This world with its glory faded. She’d shed her tears. She’d taken up her cross. She knew our loss. She’d been wounded. She’d been waiting.

Daughter, your faith has made you well (Mark 5:34).

Well, but waiting. Well, but wounded. Is a servant greater than her master? Like him, she walked Calvary’s road until it ran out. Like him, she cried. Like him, she died. Like him, she was raised to glory.

She lived in the shadow of his death. She now lives in the shadow of his life.

Like him, she was the walking wounded, the walking waiting, soldiering in life’s war. But the wounds are now healed (Isaiah 53:5). Her wait is over.

Like him, and in him, she is raised, victorious by the blood of our Lord - welcomed home into her Father’s house where there are many rooms (John 14:2).

Now, one fewer.

We knew where she was. And she wasn’t there. Not in that room.

The Wait

Her life was a thousand sermons - a godly life which revealed our God. And yet none of her life’s sermons spoke so piercingly as that of her death.

Her silent tongue and dry lips preached a sermon which separated joint and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). One which shone a light on my darkness - darkness which chooses this world.

Meaningless, meaningless, cried the preacher! (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Her dead body condemned my life. Her preaching exposed my investment in this world – my hunt for heaven here.

Here? Meaningless.

Her limbs will be mine. My tongue will join hers. My lips, dry. I will die. And stand before the Lord of life.

He gave me my time. He gave me my family. He gave me my career. He gave me my community. He gave me my opportunity. He gave me my money. He gave me my body. He gave me my life. He gave me my mina. Ten of them. They’re all his (Luke 19:13).

And I invest them here? As if this place will welcome me into its loving arms? As If my cold body won’t once be framed by my own children? As if my glazed eyes won’t one day preach their own sermon?

“Dust to dust. Stop chasing dust.

Fool.

Oh, that I’d preach the same sermon as my mother-in-law’s – that to hear the words ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ is worth the loss of all things (Matthew 25:21). That by gaining the whole world, I’d have lost the One for whom the world was made.

Live for the feast. Give it all. Hold nothing back. The blood-bought weight of glory is coming (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV).

She wasn’t there. But her body preached its final sermon to me who was.

Her eyes showed me wisdom. Her absence revealed His presence. Her death taught me how to live.

The Well Done

So much death.

My daughter. My mother-in-law. But who can ever be raised up who didn’t first fall down? There’s no yield so long as seeds aren’t sown in the ground (John 12:24).

Lord, sow me.

That room wasn’t so unreal. Life and death do share air. Isn’t the whole world a hospice for the waiting wounded? A temporary refuge under the curse of our coming end?

Who makes their home in a hospice? Ten weeks and six days was long enough.

Worlds collide. The old and the new. I live in the old. I live for the new. My ten weeks and six days will soon be over. I’ll see her. I’ll see Him.

When I pass from the old world to the new; when I go home from the hospice, I want to hear the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Her preaching won’t be wasted. I will live for the world to come.