The room is dark and silent except for your steady breathing, punctuated by an occasional stop and restart. Death waits, lurking in a shadowy corner. Your leg moves. A nurse attends. Grief engulfs, squeezing our hearts, wrapping tendrils around us like the curtains surrounding your bed.
When will your chest fall and not rise? When will breathing stop and not restart? As you hover, poised on heaven’s threshold, awaiting the invitation to come, we wait.
Watching the decline of a loved one is hard. It begins slowly and picks up speed, like a brakeless bicycle careening down a steep hill. Once the process begins, there is no stopping it.
Sitting vigil with a dying loved one is hard, but it is a sacred time and a privilege. Even when they don’t appear to recognize or respond, your presence is felt. You are there for them, but also for you. You will remember these days, but the hardness of watching as a bystander and waiting will fade.
Sitting vigil with a dying loved one is hard, but it is a sacred time and a privilege.
As you deal with the difficulty of the present, remember the joys of the past. Relive the fun and the funny. Ruminate on the deep and enduring. Rejoice for a long life well-lived. Reconnect with those who have a shared history with your loved one.
Mentally, or on paper, list all for which you have to be thankful in the relationship. Highlight the good; diminish the difficult. Cherish the love and remember all that was positive. With gratitude, realize suffering is almost over and an unencumbered life awaits.
God’s promises in scripture are a stronghold in times of hardship. God never said we wouldn’t experience trying times, but he did say he would faithfully walk with us, or carry us, through seasons of difficulty.
Unlike humans, who often make promises and don’t fulfill them, God’s promises always stand firm. You can rely on them and trust his unfailing love, support, and timing. God is the source of forward motion.
Grieve with Hope
Years ago, when my father-in-law was in CCU, I met a family in the waiting room, who’s loved one had been involved in a motorcycle accident. He was not expected to live, and the family responded to that news with wails that could be heard all over the hospital. Their anguish was palpable. They had no hope of life after death.
It is always sad to be around someone who believe death is final and there is nothing beyond. The hallmark of this line of thinking is hopelessness. I saw hopelessness on the faces of every member of that young man’s family that day.
But for those of us who know Christ as Savior, death is but a portal to eternity, a beginning, not an end.
What do you believe about eternity? When you sit vigil with a dying loved one, will you experience peace and hope?
“Brothers and sisters, we want you to be fully informed about those who have fallen asleep in death so that you will not be overwhelmed with grief like those who live outside of the true hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 VOICE).
In loving memory of Marilyn Francis Scruggs, our “Chinkie” – January 26, 1926 – July 26, 2022.
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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