Fullness and Faith
Posted by Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque
Many people know the beauty of the words drawn from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3. This ancient poem (in the 1611 King James Bible) begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” And then, the second verse continues, “A time to be born, and a time to die.”
The writer is correct, every one born will, someday, die. That we will die is not unexpected, but it is a moment not easily faced. It is not a topic we lift up in polite company. We sense its finality in our souls and are often ill-equipped to face it. Death can feel like the ultimate thief, the ultimate enemy and so we convince ourselves that it is far away and refuse to acknowledge it is a reality for all who ever draw breath.
I would be no different from the person who holds these fears save the gifts given to me by my parents. My Mom and Dad were both born in the 1920s. They had children late in life and so my sister and I grew up with parents much older than our friends. In our 20s our Father, Wiley, became ill and soon we knew he would die. Our Dad was amazing and no more giving heart has ever inhabited the earth. To say my sister and I, along with our Mom, struggled with his diagnosis and fast approaching death, is understatement. But, he, faith-filled man that he was, spoke to us in quiet confident tones about the certainty of death and the gift of living life fully until you reach that moment.
My Dad, taught us that death will come but life precedes it and we must use both occasions well.
My dad did live his life well. But he also used the occasion of his coming death well. He reminded everyone who visited him of the good things he had experienced. He told stories of Mississippi days and Chicago nights. He laughed often and cried open tears. And he asked us, his girls, to promise to live so that when we sat near death’s doors, we would be able, like him, to say we had not always succeeded but, we had (almost always) done our best. He died well, under the care of the Northern Indiana Hospice Association. And in his dying well he taught us much. He taught us not to run from death but to understand it as a promised and necessary part of life.
My Mom, Willa, also had a beautiful and peaceful death. Hospice attended her as well and cared for my sister and me. Some of the questions the hospice staff asked us as our parents passed away helped us see Willa and Wiley had led lived of fullness and faith. The fullness came from, as my Dad said, doing their best. And the faith, the faith offered them an understanding that death is surely coming, but it comes in its time and with its purpose, even when it does not include our permission or an explanation.
It is my honor to serve on the board of JourneyCare. It is an honor because every day, the men and women of this fabulous organization walk with our clients, helping them and their families understand what it is to live fully and faithfully, especially as they stand near the end of life.
It is my prayer and my hope that more and more people will experience the presence and the support of JourneyCare so that when they, like my sister and I, walk with loved ones to the end of this life they will be asked questions that help them find a measure of fullness and faith for the journey ahead.