On the afternoon of July 24, Stephanie and I had a candid conversation with our home hemo dialysis nurse, a woman who had become our friend and trusted adviser. Stephanie had been suffering with internal bleeding that was first detected in December 2014. Despite numerous efforts to resolve this problem, including multiple endoscopies and transfusions, things were not getting better but worse.
Our nurse sat with us and lovingly helped us to think through our situation. As we considered our options, the decision became clear. Stephanie did not have the will or energy to continue to pursue a resolution to this problem. That meant that eventually her hemoglobin would get so low that she would not be able to sustain life any longer. We cried, we prayed, and we surrendered Stephanie's life to the Lord.
Later that day, Stephanie began to hemorrhage. I called 911 and the ambulance came and rushed her to Waterbury Hospital. Her hemoglobin was plummeting, and the hemorrhaging was continuing. The doctor told me that he thought she should have a transfusion. I told him that he needed to ask her, and he did. When he asked her if she wanted a transfusion, she simply replied, "No". In saying that word she took control over her life and made a choice. She knew that meant that she would not live much longer. How could she say that when our instinct as human beings is to cling to life with all that we have? She made her choice. She said "No".
In the midst of the adrenaline rush that is typical of the early stages of an emergency room visit, I didn't process what it took for her to say "no", but in looking back I realize how brave she was because she made her own choice and chose to peacefully enter into the unknown. Watching her die was the most surreal experience I've ever had. Life, what little life that was left, was leaving her ravaged body. I wonder what was in her mind in those last hours. Perhaps she thought of the words from Revelation 21:4: ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
She was entering peacefully into the unknown, but she knew that Jesus was waiting for her. Maybe the words that Jesus uttered on the cross were in her mind: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). These words come from Psalm 31 and were likely a bed time prayer for little Jewish children.
She was entering peacefully into the unknown because she knew that she was done. Paul described our bodies as like tents (2 Corinthians 5). Having tried and failed as a camper, I can attest that I prefer the comfort and convenience of my home to a tent. Tents wear out, and on July 25, Stephanie's tent wore out, but although her tent was done, her life was just beginning. Later in that passage Paul said: "What is mortal is swallowed up by life." So while her earthly tent was failing, what made her Stephanie was being swallowed up by life. At times death has been portrayed as a devouring monster, but Paul said that life swallows the mortal.
Ultimately it was her choice that astounded me. She was worn out and exhausted and incredibly brave and assured of what was in store for her. She made her choice - bravely, peacefully, submissively. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”