I am lying on an uncomfortable bed in the Emergency Room of our local hospital. I feel reassured because this is a Level 1 trauma center delivering the highest level of trauma care available within our region. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) just wheeled me in on a gurney from our home, some thirty minutes away. I am a Type 2 diabetic and my sugar has soared to 367 while my blood pressure has plummeted dangerously low. It has been determined that I am seriously dehydrated. Consequently the staff is concluding that I need to be admitted to the hospital for a day or so to get my metabolism corrected. Unfortunately there are no available rooms since 30 patients are already waiting ahead of me. So my first night will have to be spent in a makeshift cubicle with four walls of curtains. My daughter will stay with me, sleeping in a chair beside my bed.
The staff is very friendly and helpful as they work quickly to make me as comfortable as possible in my surrounding. This is quite a different environment from an ordinary individual hospital room. As I glance around the room, it seems gigantic. There is a huge nurses’ station in the center of the room and bordering around the fringes are curtained cubicles where patients are treated. This arrangement makes it more efficient for the staff to attend to patients’ needs than is the case with most hospital rooms.
My senses are soon awakened by a variety of sounds: patient calls, alarms, beeps, buzzers, and two-way radios, but one sound that is louder than them all appears to be coming from behind the cubicle curtain next to ours. The sound is repetitive like some sort of machine. It runs for a short time, then stops and starts up again. Later I learn that the machine-like sound is coming from Lucas, a CPR machine used to resuscitate patients. Several voices emanate from that cubicle next to ours. Trained medical staff are working feverishly, saying things like, “I feel a pulse,” “start CPR,” “no heartbeat” and at the same time chatting about former experiences in their profession.
With all that is going on in this busy room, I’m reminded of the many voices or languages going on in this world (I Cor. 14:10). And in this case everything that I am hearing is important. Obviously these medical professionals are not ignoring the patient’s needs; they are simply doing what they do regularly and repeatedly. However, in this case, despite their valiant efforts, the patient expires.
As my daughter and I attempt to rest for the night, it is impossible for us not to re-live our own painful experiences in the deaths of both my wife and my daughter’s husband in this same ER – all within the space of 13 months! Both were radiant Christians, and for them death was a promotion into the presence of God and rest from their labors (Rev. 14:13). I am also remembering what the Bible teaches about life and death. Death is like the wind, nobody has power over it (Eccl. 8:8). And as for life, we don’t know what it will bring tomorrow. Life is like a fog: here for a little while, then it disappears (James 4:14).). We need to simply live our lives for Christ, and when we die it will be great gain for us (Phil. 1:21). Death left its sting in Christ as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. But Jesus bore it so that we would not have to bear it.
Reflecting on the deaths of my wife and son-in-law, it was a sad task but a spiritual privilege to assist in preparing obituaries for both our loved ones. Beloved, death is our great and last enemy, but it has been conquered and ultimately will be destroyed (I Cor. 15:26). What seems like death’s victory when our bodies waste away and die is actually the very opposite. Death dies in defeat while our bodies live again in victory! Death’s obituary has already been written, signed, sealed, and delivered.
An important passage to remember about death is I Cor. 15:54-57. I close by quoting this passage from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, the Bible in Contemporary Language:
“But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
Rest assured that these words are meant for us!