Thursday, May 8, 2008

Handling Death

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2

I don't handle death very well. I'm not sure why. I know, as a Christian, as soon as I or one of my saved friends or family members die, then we'll be dancing with Jesus. I've given this a lot of thought over the years trying to figure out why death bothers me so much. I mean, it's a fact of life right?
We're born, we live, we die...end of story.

I think about all the people I've know who have died at such a young age from suicide, drunk driving, car accidents, sicknesses, etc and their faces run through my mind all the time because I don't know if they were saved or not. I don't know if they are dancing with Jesus! I think about my grandparents who died from smoking-related diseases when they were in their 60's or 70's and I don't know about their salvation either and it breaks my heart to not know that.

When I was in the "working world", doing what I earned my degree for, I worked in a Dialysis unit at a hospital for 7 years. I retired from there to be a full-time mom when Dakota was 2-yrs-old. I started working there doing my internship and was hired upon completing my two-month internship. I was a single mom of 3 small children, fresh out of college and on my way in my new career...I was 24 yrs old.

Over the next few years I worked hard, learned as much as I could and got several promotions. I loved my job, the people I worked with and the patients I got to know. I grew up in that job. I went from a single "partying" mom to dating my future husband to a year-long engagement, a big wedding, a surprise pregnancy (got pregnant with Dakota 2 weeks after we got married), the birth of Dakota, serious illnesses, my return to the church and a relationship with Jesus and many other life-changing events over the course of those seven years.

My patients became part of my extended family as much as my co-workers were. With dialysis our patients came in to the unit three times a week for 2-4 hours each time. Their kidneys didn't function properly anymore so they had to be hooked up to a hemodialysis machine and have their blood filter through an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) to remove all the toxins. By seeing these patients three times a week for 2-4 hours at a time we really got to know them well. There were many patients that died while I worked there, but I have three in particular, that continue to haunt my thoughts even to this day.

The first one was a young man in his 30's named Jim. He was extremely overweight and a comic. We couldn't wait for his days (Tues, Thurs, & Saturdays) because he always had some new comedy routine he wanted to try out on us. He was from Chicago and always teased me about bringing me back a REAL pizza from Chicago...none of this mess they make around here in FL. One of his biggest thrills was when the comic, CarrotTop, came to perform locally and Jim was able to go see him and have his picture taken with him. I was 7 mos pregnant when Jim had to be admitted into the hospital for routine knee surgery. Our dialysis unit was next door in the medical center so I planned on walking over to see him when I got to work the day after his surgery. I had called the unit after his surgery to check on him and make sure he was okay. I had a special place in my heart for Jim - we didn't have too many young ones on dialysis and he was just a great, funny guy! When I arrived at work that morning I could tell the mood was somber and I started asking what was wrong. Everyone was afraid to tell me - because of my pregnancy I guess. Finally one of the head nurses took me out and told me Jim had died during the night. Apparently he had sleep apnea and the drugs they gave him for pain had kept him from waking up when he quit breathing or something...I don't even remember now. I just remember being devastated.

The second patient was a man who came to us for the very first time. My responsiblity was new patient intake - to process all new patients and have them sign "10,000" forms and explain the whole process to them and what to expect and answer any questions, etc. By the time a patient comes to us ready to start dialysis they are so weak and worn out they feel horrible. It takes about 3-4 treatments of filtering their blood of all the toxins before they start feeling better. This man came in with his wife and sat in my office and I went through the whole process. Afterwards we got him hooked up to the machine and all settled in. His wife came in and asked me how long he was going to be on the machine and when I explained he would be there for about 2 hours because it was his first treatment she asked if she could go to the cafeteria and get a bite to eat. I told her that would be fine because he is in good hands and we'll take good care of him. She walks away and 20 minutes later the man codes in the chair. We work on him for 30 minutes but he dies right there! I heard the doctor ask if anyone knew where his wife was and I told him she was down in the cafeteria...I was praying he wouldn't send me down to get her. I was in shock and didn't know that I could face the woman after just telling her "Go ahead, your husband is in good hands!" I don't remember what happened after that - but I didn't have to go get her and in fact, I never saw her again.

The third and final patient was a lady named Marie and her husband Karl. They were the cutest couple. They were both small-- tiny in height and very skinny. She talked so fast and would nag him to death - he just smiled his toothless smile at her and winked at me. Their days were Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Everyday after she was hooked up he would come to my office and sit and chat for a few minutes. I KNOW they were not saved - I had a chance to talk to them about Jesus and neither of them believed in Jesus nor wanted to hear anything about Him. Marie ended up coding while she was on the machine too and she couldn't be brought back. The thing that has always stuck with me though is her face as she was dying...she wasn't dying slowly and peacefully...just drifting off while hooked up to the machine. She was fighting and clawing and had this horrible wide-eyed expression on her face unlike anything I have ever seen before - she died with THAT expression on her face.
I have always thought "She has said she doesn't believe in Jesus so I wonder what she is looking at as she is dying?"


Claire said...

I almost didn't read your post. I no longer fear death myself, but I don't know how I'll cope when my father dies, if he hasn't yet accepted Jesus (so far, so bad). Same with my brother.

Thank you for the reminder to pray, pray, pray for our unsaved friends and family.

Rebekah said...

About 3 years ago my dad died and a friend of our died. I knew my dad was dancing with Jesus, but I wasnt sure about our friend. I spend the next 8 months in a clouded fog, thoughts filled with life and death, heaven and hell.

Chucks family isnt saved and I pray for them often