Thursday, May 26, 2011

Journey's End

I had not originally planned to work in the field of geriatrics. On the contrary, it was the last place I would have seen myself. It wasn't the end of life I wished to witness, but the beginning. However, God, having other plans for my life, orchestrated me instead, into a job as a charge nurse at a nursing home. Once again I found that He knows me better then I know myself.

Over the years I have been the traveling companion of many who have reached their journey's end. It is one thing we cannot choose, the one guaranteed stage of life. It must happen to all of us, regardless of which roads we take in life. For some it ends in fear, past regrets haunting their final hours. For others peace, after long anticipation. Some with fight, and some with quiet resolve. So different is each person's journey through that final valley of life.

In the past I had always thought of it as a time of reconciliation, a time where families let go of past hurt, cried together, and forgave one another. But it does not always happen that way. It would sadden, and perhaps surprise you to know how many times an aide or a nurse was the only person sitting at the bedside of a fading life. What events, in a life deemed successful, would lead to such a lonely end?

In the world we live in today, and in every past generation in history, there has been a desire for status, accomplishment, and wealth. We strive to be financially stable, to hold a respectable job. We idolize those with power and envy those with fame. We're proud of our looks, our clothes, and our possessions, because they say something about who we are. Money speaks to us, and too often we let money speak for us.

Funny, though, how silent it becomes in the end. Not one word does it speak on our behalf, though we may have given everything of true value to get it.

"He was a wonderful father." "He was a terrible father." "She was never there for me." "No one could have loved me more." Stories told, and a life's journey summarized. What will your summary be? What are you doing now in your personal journey that is truly going to matter? What are you in pursuit of? And more importantly, what are you neglecting that you shouldn't?

My husband's grandfather's return of cancer was sudden and aggressive. At the time his symptoms were recognized he was given two weeks to live. I will never forget that day in his hospital room. Joining hands in prayer and in song were countless children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. No eye was dry as we celebrated the life of this poor, humble man. He left no great amount of money, but what he left was worth far more - a legacy of a love-filled, Christ-filled life, evidenced in the very lives that surrounded him that day. But, it wasn't the end that made the difference, it was the journey he took to get there.

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end. - Ursula K. Le Guin

In memory of the adventures of Lewis and Clark the Christian Writers chose the topic "journey" for this month's blog chain. It has inspired some amazing thoughts and great posts amongst them all! Please visit the links on the side bar to read more!

May God  bless you!


Debra Ann Elliott said...

Wonderfully written! Thank you for stopping by Writing with Debra and your heartfelt day.

From Carol's Quill said...

Sarah - this is a wonderful post. Death truly is part of our life's journey. I'm grateful to you for being with people as they leave this world. You may not be their family by blood but you are part of the family of Christ and they are blessed when you are with them. Thank you for the reminder that we'll all make the journey.

TheWriteChris said...

I'm currently reading a book by Billy Graham called Peace with God. The part I just read covered the concept of death being inevitable but how few people plan for dealing with their own death as if it won't happen to them.

It reminded me of a friend of mine who I went to visit in the hospital just after he was told he only had a day or two to live. I blithely asked how he was doing as an automatic greeting.

He replied that he'd had better days but he had peace with his situation and was looking forward to his next step in life. He was a true Christian believer and I could see and feel his peace.

I will never forget that time with him and pray for that same grace from God when my life comes to an end.

E. G. Lewis said...

What a beautiful, and unexpected, post. As a hospice volunteer, I have experienced many of the same situations. Strangely enough,I go with the goal of giving, but always receive more from my patients than I expected.

Your inspiring post has set the tone for my day. Peace and Blessings.

Adam Collings said...

My wife orked in age care for a while. She told me what an honour it was to care for some fascinating people near the end of their lives. She once cared for a man who was over one hundred years old. He had been at the Kokoda Trail during the war.

My own grandfather passed away this year (the first of my grandparents to go) so I am glad that there are people like you Sarah making their last days special.

Tracy Krauss said...

This was a profoundly poignant post. I have sat by the bedside of a few dying people and it is an experience ever etched into my memory. The silence and stillness is sobering and it certainly brings into focus the brevity of life and the importance of focusing on relationships. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

lynnmosher said...

Beautiful, Sarah! No other words other than just beautiful. Blessings to you!

Cindee Snider Re said...

Beautiful, Sarah! It is indeed the journey that matters, every day, every breath, every moment we choose to pour ourselves into the ones we love, because of the One who first loved us,the moments quietly strung together in a garland of joy in honor and praise of our Heavenly Father and all to His glory as He eagerly awaits us at journey's end.

Sheila said...

Sarah, this was so touching and moving. My husband's mother died from cancer and she lived with us the last few months of her life. My husband and his brother held her hands on the eve of her death
and told her of their love. When we helped her to bed that night, she lay her head down and went to sleep never to awaken in this life. I've always been thankful she had such a loving and peaceful departure from this world.

Well-written and wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

Sheila said...

Oh, yeah. I was going to use that exact same quote, although it goes much better with your post. That's what I get for going last!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for all your comments! I am blessed to be in the position I am. As E.G. said, I feel as if I come away with more then I give. God knew where I needed to be.

@Adam - there are so many fascinating people to meet isn't there? I never get tired of hearing the stories my residents tell.

@Chris, Tracy, and Sheila - you never forget those farewells. Thank you for sharing your stories with me.

God bless, and thank you all so much for stopping by! :)

Sarah said...

@ Sheila - Lol! You should still use the quote. Good ones are worth repeating! :D

Jan Christiansen said...

What a wonderful post, Sarah! Having been my father's at home caregiver and being with him at the moment he passed away, I know what those final moments are like and how important our hospice nurse was to us. You are filling a valuable the lives of those you care for. Thank you for doing so.

Traci B said...

Excellent post, Sarah. At my aunt's homegoing week before last, the stories her pastor told were of a life lived in service to Christ and loving her family. It was a beautiful celebration of a life lived well. Your post reminded me of her and my cousins and uncle, who were there to see her journey into eternity.

Nona King said...

Such a fantastic entry in the blog-chain! You are not only a gifted writer, but I feel certain you are seen as a blessing to those you escort to the other side.

Thank you for this glimpse into your life's journey.


Sarah said...

@Jan - Thank you. Hospice is a wonderful program. We work with them quite a bit and I'm always blessed by how caring their nurses are.

@Traci - It is wonderful that they could be there for her. Family is so important at that time.

@Nona - Thank you. I do pray I have been a blessing to them. I know they have been to me.

Thank you so much for taking time to stop by!

chris vonada said...

good one Sarah, indeed, it is the journey that matters in the end :)