My grandfather passed away this weekend, three days after his 80th birthday (which he spent in the hospital). Though he had suffered from chronic illness and disability for over 15 years, the illness that took his life came by surprise. The three days he spent in the hospice unit, after care was withdrawn, seemed like weeks and it was difficult to watch him suffer after so many years of physical pain.
Growing up, I was not particularly close to my grandfather. He was a unique person and difficult to relate to at times (at least for me). My memories of childhood are very poor and I do not remember him much before his idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. His essential tremors made talking difficult for him and one had to be quite patient to really have a conversation with him. After a fall 10 years ago, he was left largely housebound as his mobility continually declined and his chronic illness progressed.
In the winter of 2010/2011, about six month after my pain became disabling, my husband and I began traveling weekly and then often monthly to the city where he lived for better medical care. It was during this time that I really began to get to know my grandfather. We realized we had a bond that others often do not understand - chronic pain. Though he was much more debilitated than I, we understood the hurt of lost independence, the depression that accompanies chronic illness, the stress of daily pain that medication could not relieve, and the frustration of having an illness with an unknown cause and no real known cure.
During our visits he shared a lot while I patiently listened offering affirmation of his plight and occasional tidbits of hope, and through these talks mutual respect and love was gained. I shared in his memorial service that I am so glad I had that time with him. In fact, I am thankful for my pain if only for the opportunity to know him better. Without my pain, we would not have made frequent trips to visit him and my grandmother, and had life gone according to our plans, we'd be overseas right now.
My grandfather's life was hard. My life is hard. Everyone suffers to some degree. We really shouldn't be surprised - the Bible told us we would. Thankfully suffering doesn't have to last forever. Even if we live and suffer for 80 or 100 years, our days will soon be gone.
These bodies we fight with all our might to preserve will fail us. We will "fly away", but the question is where will we fly away to? To a place free from suffering and full of eternal peace with God or to eternal suffering - a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:41-42)?
Scripture tells us the only way to heaven and God is through Jesus (John 14:6, 1 John 5:12) and if we trust Him and follow Him we can know that we will have eternal life in heaven and not hell (John 5:24, 1 John 5:13). Following Jesus not only provides hope for the future but can also give purpose and joy in this life - no matter our circumstances.
Do you know Jesus? Are you following Him and trusting Him alone to save you? Life is short. Don't wait till it's too late; find rest and hope in Jesus today.
For more information on how to have a saving relationship with Jesus visit Two Ways to Live or feel free to send me an email at purposeofpain (at) gmail (dot) com