Death Comes

The end of a thing is better than its beginning.    Ecclesiastes 7:8

I don’t normally write about personal tragedy, but today I will.  Part of me wants the release.  Part of me hopes that someone will learn something from it. Honestly, I’m not sure which part is bigger.

My sister died Friday morning.  Truth be told, she died Thursday, but she was comatose and on a ventilator since then.  Her husband called me Friday morning to say that they decided it was time to turn it off.  Her organs were failing, and there was no hope.

But let’s back up for a moment.  For one thing, you might wonder at my choice if Bible verse.  I’ll explain, but it’s going to take a little bit.

One of my nephews from my other sister called me Thursday morning at 5:00.  When I looked at my phone and saw his name, I figured it had to be bad news.  He told me that she had had open heart surgery several days prior.  After an initial good recovery, she began to have internal bleeding.  Things didn’t look good, because she was too weak for them to operate again.

I asked him where she was.  I wasn’t asking what hospital, although that eventually came.  No, I wondered where in the country she was.  Was she still in Las Vegas?  He didn’t know where she was after she left Vegas years ago.  He said he would try to find out and get back to me.  All he knew was that her husband had contacted his mom, my other sister, with the news.

Paula had a shit life.  No two ways about it.  It started with bad genes, a hyper thyroid, and the attending mental health issues that go along with it.  She married right out of high school.  Her husband joined the Navy but was later dishonorably discharged for drug use.  He got Paula hooked when he came back.  After having three kids together, they divorced, and he moved on.  Paula was addicted to crack cocaine.  Some of the stories she told me after she got clean chilled me to the bone.

The worst was when her supplier threatened to shoot her over missing money.  She grabbed his hand and pulled the gun to her head and screamed at him to go ahead.  Her son was there.

I tried to help her when I could, but she would invariably piss away whatever I tried to do for her and disappear for years at a time.  I wasn’t mad at her so much as frustrated.  For what little detail I know of her life, she made very few good decisions and never learned from the bad ones.

As odd as it might sound, I am grieving for someone I barely knew as an adult.  I have some fond childhood memories, but even by high school she kept getting herself into tight spots.

The question I ask myself as why I’m crying over someone I haven’t seen or heard from in over ten years.  I’m not crying for having now lost her.  I’m crying for the normal relationship we never had.  I’m crying for decades of her pain.  I’m crying because no matter how futile the hope of having a normal sibling relationship with her was, it was still alive as long as she was alive.

That door closed Friday morning.

The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.  Her pain is ended.  Her troubles have ended.  It’s better now.

Your obvious question is what makes me think a former crackhead who left family for years on end can end up in heaven.  My nephew told me that he knew his mom and Paula spoke about God a few times last few years.  She “came home” to Jesus.  She fell asleep in her body and awoke in Jesus’ loving arms.

What’s especially comforting about this is a conversation I had last year with someone who died, met Jesus and came back.  You can read my article Perfect Love for some detail, but here’s the gist of it.

Jason met Jesus in heaven surrounded by angels he described as being huge and indescribably powerful.  He felt Jesus’ power also.  I asked him if he wasn’t even a bit nervous about being in the presence of the Son of God.  He smiled and said no.  Jesus’ love emanated from Him like a physical force.  The power and intensity of Jesus’ love made everything else pale in comparison.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.    1 John 4:18

That’s where my sister is now.  She’s with Jesus and feeling His love that casts out everything else.  She is in a place where God promised to wipe away every tear.

I’m not going to the funeral.  The family situation is…well, it’s ugly.  It’s better if I stay away.  We were, after all, the poster family for dysfunction.  There’s nothing to be gained by playing the entire soap opera here.

However, writing this has helped me work through my emotions.  I hope it’s given you some sort of perspective if you’re dealing with a death now.  If you’re not dealing with a death right now, trust me – you will.  Just please remember that you can try to do the right thing and get punished for it.  You can’t make other people behave.

You can pray for them, try to help, be understanding, and, in the end, take comfort that God will take care of things.

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