Monday, November 29, 2010
The Sunday After Thanksgiving
This morning a long-time member of our church passed away.
She suffered for many years from a long list of physical ailments. Cancer, diabetes, various amputations as a result of infection. How many times did I hear her requesting prayer on my dad's voice mail? Most recently, she had broken her foot and there was an issue with pooling blood around the wound. I'm not going to go into long detail, but one of the men in the church and I were asked to help her to a waiting vehicle as service was wrapping up. She'd been sick in the bathroom for a good part of the service, feeling nauseous, she said.
As we walked alongside her, supporting her as she leaned on her walker, it was obvious she was in terrible pain and quickly she began to sink. We called for a chair as we reached the front doors, but she was already gone. I held her head and looked into her eyes as the life we know flowed from her body. I called 911 and a nurse and former EMT in the church started CPR. The ambulance arrived, but there was little to be done. Her husband watched as they worked on her, laying halfway out the front doors of the church.
One of the last services Catherine Claggett was in, she testified about meeting a perfect stranger in a gas station in Oklahoma and praying for that person's need. She had a crackling voice that would slowly turn to an echoing boom as she would exhort and call our church to gratefulness or greater service. Her life was one of constant pain and seemingly unlimited suffering on this earth, yet she never lost sight of her eternal goal.
Tonight, she doesn't need the walker or giant, orthopedic shoes any longer. I'm grateful for her... and not a little humbled to have been by the side of a saint passing from this world to the next. I have to admit there weren't a million things running through my mind. I did manage to keep from taking pictures (purely tacky) and I learned a valuable lesson about calling 911 from a county address (always stay on the line even if they say they're on the way... a physical address, detailed driving instructions & a cell number don't always guarantee delivery of emergency services). As the pastor mentioned later, I was proud of the health-care professionals we have at our church who were able to assess and give assistance. When the police arrived first, they simply looked over the situation and said, "Keep going."
I was also struck by the thought of the spouse. What do you as a husband of 42 years say at that moment in time? What do you think? How does it feel? One of the guys in the church rode with him as he drove to the hospital. Some of us and his family came to the ER. But then he went home. Alone. I went home to Suzi to tell her I loved her again. And again.
May God extend His Amazing Grace to each of us when that time comes.
We'll need it.