Dealing with Death- Part 1
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. I'm going to talk about a subject that I personally have had to deal with recently and that is death. I have had to deal with the deaths of 2 close family members in the past 6 months and it's taught me some valuable lessons. My hope is that my experience might help you when you are faced with the death of a loved one. And the fact is that it's not if you are faced with the death of a loved one, but when you are faced. I'll be looking at some Scripture this week, but I'll also be looking at the application of Scripture and I'll be talking about what it really means to trust God. It's one thing to believe in the path, it's another thing to walk that path. With that introduction, let me ask God Almighty, creator of the universe and all that it is in, to bless this message. May it glorify Him and may it show the truth and light of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray- Amen.
The two deaths that I've dealt with recently were quite different. First, was the death of my grandmother back in October. She was the matriarch of the family and my boss for 14 years. Although she was very independent and hated to be a burden to anyone, both of these desires were shaken when she fell and broke her hip. After that, it was a series of nursing homes and hospitals during which her health got worse and worse, until she finally passed away just over 2 years after falling. Due to her age, her death was expected to come sooner rather than later and due to her decreasing health, I think it was a relief for most of us when her suffering was finally over.
The second death I had to deal with was that of my 11 year old son, David. David was born with an extremely rare blood disease which remains undiagnosed as of this writing in spite of the efforts of the Mayo Clinic, Mt Sinai, Children's Hospital Colorado, Salt Lake Children's Hospital, and Univ of New Mexico Children's Hospital. As a result of this blood disease, he was very anemic. His hemoglobin levels- that is, the red blood cells which carry oxygen in the body- were in the 4.0 g/dL range. Normal is around 16 g/dL. His weight and height were less than 3% of normal and he tired very easily. Just over a year ago, his hemoglobin dropped even more and we noticed him looking particularly thin and frail. In addition, his already poor appetite dropped off to nearly nothing. At that point, it didn't look like he was going to grow out of it and we made the decision to get aggressive in trying to treat his still unknown disease.
We returned to Univ of New Mexico Children's Hospital and began laying out a strategy which included blood transfusions and monitoring. At first, the transfusions kept his hemoglobin up around 7-8 g/dL but before long, David's body developed anti-bodies to the transfusions and soon we were transfusing 3-4 units of blood every week. His body was destroying this blood almost as fast as it was put in. During Thanksgiving week, his hemoglobin dropped to a low of 2.8 g/dL and he spent the next 10 days in the hospital getting one transfusion after another. Finally, in December, the doctors suggested steroids to see if they would reduce the anti-bodies. Surprisingly, the steroids worked and David's hemoglobin not only stayed at the 7.5 g/dL level but actually increased at one point to 9. This was still only about ｽ of what it should be and the decision was made to transfuse David again to see if the combination of good blood and steroids would boost his hemoglobin up and keep it there. This seemed to work and a few days after this approach, David's hemoglobin was at an all-time of high of 11.2 g/dL. Things seemed to be looking up.
However, very early on Memorial Day morning, 8 days after his latest transfusion, David complained of a severe headache and extremely loud noise from the house fans. My wife gave him Tylenol and had him lie down. Less than an hour later, while lying down, he threw up and passed diarrhea. Georgia woke me up then and by the look on her face, I knew this was serious. David was unconscious and totally unresponsive so we called the Grenville ambulance who rushed him to Clayton. In spite of being life-flighted to Albuquerque, David never regained consciousness and he died that evening when a tracheotomy tube fell out of his steroid-swollen neck and could not be reinserted.
During David's life, there were several times when his hemoglobin dropped and we made emergency trips to Albuquerque. During each of these trips, we were aware that he might very well just go to sleep and not wake up. The steroid treatment had given us some hope, though, and thus it was quite a shock when we did lose him.
These are the two deaths that I've dealt with in just a few short months. One of an elderly person, one of a child. One expected and a relief, one not really expected and a shock. Time for preparation in one, time of the essence in the other. Both dealt with in different ways, just the bottom line was the same. Let's discuss these a bit more.
First, we have to understand that death comes to everyone. We have very little control- maybe even no control- over when and how. All we can do is make the most of the time we have. We expect the death of an elderly person since we know that no one on earth lives forever and the older a person gets, they closer their time must be. The death of a child is less expected as we sort of think that they have years of life in front of them. But that, obviously, is not always true. In any case, death comes to every one. For every birth, there is a death.
In the case of an elderly person, we are often thankful for their life, for the gifts they gave, the sacrifices they made for us, and so on. It's common to say that they had a long and complete life. In the death of a child, though, we often feel cheated. We're sorry that they didn't live a full and complete life, marry, have children of their own, contribute to the world, and so on. But, again, we have very little say-so in these things. Accidents happen, diseases occur, and sometimes people just up and die. The Bible is very clear on this and a great place to go is Ecclesiastes:
UKJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 7  All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness
UKJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 9  I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.  For man also knows not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
UKJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 8  There is no man that has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither has he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
I've heard it said that there is no objection an atheist can raise that is not dealt with in the Bible. So far, I have found that to be a true statement. The author of Ecclesiastes certainly doesn't pull any punches when he says the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding... but time and chance happens to them all. Righteous men perish and wicked men prosper. People die young and people die old. It's just the way it is, here on earth or, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, under the sun. It's not the way it should be, not the way we'd like for it to be, but it is, indeed, the way it goes here under the sun.
So, what recourse do we have in times of death and times of trouble and sorrow? First, we should acknowledge that these times are indeed times of sorrow- even though God holds our very breath in His hand, to do with as He pleases, we are justified in mourning the loss on a loved one.
UKJV: Romans Chapter 12  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
UKJV: John Chapter 11  Jesus wept.
Secondly, though, we must acknowledge that God is in control. I have preached on the following verses many times and I suspected that David's life might be short and I was very aware that in preaching these passages, I might be called upon to walk in them. The passages that I reflected upon the most immediately after David's death included:
UKJV: Romans Chapter 8  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
UKJV: Job Chapter 1  Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,  And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
UKJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 7  Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he has made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also has set the one opposite to the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
And so, in preaching and teaching on passages like these, should I not live them if called upon to do so? In other words, I preach and teach Heaven and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when a believer dies, should I be mournful that they're gone from this earth, or should I rejoice in the fact that their earthly sufferings are over and that they are now restored, perfectly, with Jesus? It doesn't matter whether the person is old or young- that really is simply a matter of time. Yes, I would have liked to have seen my son David fully and completely healed here on earth and I prayed for that constantly, but given a choice between life in the hospital and eternal life with Jesus Christ, which would be best for him? God knows best and in the final answer, I have to trust God. I have to walk the path which I've preached or I would otherwise be a hypocrite of the highest order. I must trust that all things work together for good, that the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord, and I have to in the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider; God also has set the one opposite to the other.
Well, that's all for today. Join us again tomorrow at 9:45 here on KLMX radio.
Forward to Part 2