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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Death with Dignity?

Getting his first chemo treatment
Yesterday I shared that my dad passed away on the 21st of last month.  There are many who talk about death with dignity.  My dad was dignified.  More times than I can count the week after his passing he was described to us as a southern gentleman.  He was always concerned about whether he was dressed properly.  It was not an issue of pride but more a conviction that he had to continually put his best foot forward.

He was a hero especially to his unit in WWII.  For a better picture of this you can read what I said at the funeral here.

His death though was anything but dignified.  For the last several weeks of his life he was increasingly unable to care for himself.  He needed help to bathe.  He needed help to go to the bathroom.  He was an incredibly modest and proper man.  In those weeks he was helped by some really gracious people.  All of them were women.  While he never complained, I know he was embarrassed.

When I got to his room the morning of the 21st there were four medical personnel working on him.  They had the hospital bed sitting up and he was leaning to his left with his head tilted forward and his mouth open as if he was gasping for air.  He was unresponsive.  There was some black matter on the front of his gown.  It seemed that it had finally come out of his lungs.

A few minutes later he was gone.

This hero, this man who had been described as a southern gentleman, who was always concerned about making sure that his external presentation matched his commitment to excellence in all that he did, in his final moments had been exposed, had expelled matter from his lungs, and had lost control of his body.

Dignity.  No.

We were not created to physically die.  Physical death is the consequence of rebellion against God, Romans 6:23.  We were created in the image of an infinite God.  We were meant to live with Him forever.  Our choice of sin resulted in our eventual physical death.  However, our soul continues to live on.  In dad’s case, he had trusted Christ.  He had accepted that he needed Christ’s death as a substitution and payment for his sin.  So as he took his last breath, he entered into the presence of His savior.

There is dignity in that.

Not in the consequence of our sin.

Since dad has passed away many people have told us they were sorry for our loss.  I want to share some thoughts on that tomorrow.


  1. Wow Mike, you are truly a gifted communicator.

  2. Penetrating as usual, Mike. Thanks. Watching both my Mom and my Dad deal with pain through life and in the finality of death would perhaps not be described as "dignified." But the way they faced it was. I think that can only come from God and a lifetime of walking with Christ to the best ability they could. I was with Dad, and it was sweet and quiet. I missed seeing my Mom by less than an hour; I can't remember for sure.

    But the death etched in my consciousness and frequently in my mind's eye is that of my beloved wife. I wasn't aware of how she looked the last week at the time, but was shocked at a photo showing her appearance. There was very little apparent of the joy, peace and inner beauty that she reflected just days before that came from her 55+ years of closely waking with the Savior she so passionately loved to the last.

    Yes, we weren't designed for that. The ravages of sin proved God's promise that if we rebel against His law we "will surely die."

    But as you point out, for us who are sheltered under the cross of Christ He has taken the sting of death for us and death here is a wide open doorway to glory we can anticipate but not come close to imagining.

    I rejoice daily (many times) that Sharon is not lost; I know exactly where she is, the only place that matters - with her beloved Lord and Savior.

    I am eager to see them both!

  3. Somehow I missed that your dad has passed away. I'm so sorry, Mike. I just said goodbye to my father on February 2nd. It makes me smile to think in some form or fashion (we don't really quite know what that will look like, do we?), our fathers have met and are swapping stories about their sons. I'm praying for your peace, right now. I'm glad you were with him in his final hours, as he transitioned into the arms of Jesus.