The Hard Work of Dying



Joel 2:25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten”

“Dying is hard work,” a friend said to me as I stayed with my dad during his final days on earth. “It’s like childbirth, with its accompanying labor and transitory pain into a new world.” I saw this firsthand…this mysterious cycle of life…in the few days surrounding Dad’s final journey.

Dad was taken to the hospital on a Wednesday morning due to intense difficulty in breathing. By Thursday afternoon he had returned to his home under Hospice care, given less than two weeks to live. But Dad was ready to go. As I’ve written elsewhere (Virgin Snow), he didn’t accept Christ as Savior until he was 65-years old. But what happened upon his conversion was one of the most radical transformations I’ve ever witnessed. His last years had been characterized by a daily prayer life that covered hundreds of people and visitations to the sick and dying that encompassed over a thousand hours a year. (He was even awarded a Presidential citation for his volunteer work with Hospice).

Dad was a natural evangelist. Yet he would have no part in “proselytizing.” Perhaps because he came to Christ so late in life, he never wanted to put pressure on people. He simply told people the truth about what God could do—every chance he got. His testimony rang with compassion and authenticity. And people listened. From his old drinking buddies to his doctors to his barber to family members. This was evident even on his deathbed…

Dad’s brother-in-law had been on his prayer list for years. A few days before Dad died, Bobby came to see him. As I went into Dad’s room, Bobby sat in a chair next to his bed, tears streaming down his face. But Dad was smiling. In his now weak, raspy voice he whispered, “This is the happiest day in my life. I got to talk to Bobby about his soul.” If ever a man kept the focus of his call to the end, it was my dad.

Dad was far from a perfect man. But he was a redeemed one. Although it was difficult to watch Dad’s life ebb away in this “hard work of dying,” it was a sacred time. I witnessed the fulfillment of God’s promise that he “would restore the years the locusts had eaten” (Joel 2:25). He had brought Dad full circle and prepared him for what C.S. Lewis describes as the land he had been looking for all his life. 


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