Paul’s Letter to Those in Hospice Care

We groan… not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Cor 5:4)
There is so much of God’s word, especially the New Testament, that I don’t think can really grasp the meat of until we’ve lost a loved one. So many verses and passages move from being a point of interest to a lifeline. — me

My morning Bible reading brought me to 2 Corinthians 5, which caused a rush of vivid memories of my visit to Dad in hospice care the day he died. I’m so glad this passage reminds us that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7), because everything Paul describes regarding passing out of this world defies what my eyes saw that day.

The only exception — the only thing that rang true to my senses were these words from Paul: “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” (2 Cor 5:2) Dad hooked up to the morphine drip to ease his suffering as he groaned with every breath. I prayed he would pass quickly, because his body already looked like it had started dying. Truly we all start dying the day we are born. We look like a fresh picked peach out of our mother’s womb, but Dad’s skin reminded piece of food ready for the compost pile.

Yes, it was alarming! When I walked into the room at the Hospice center straight from the airport, I was not prepared to see what seemed more corpse than alive. I prayed he would pass quickly.

Thanks be to God, he breathed his last only a few hours after I arrived, and from there Paul’s narrative defied what my eyes could see and I must have faith in God’s word. Paul says we long to “put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.” Yet, the procedures they had to run when he arrived in hospice left Dad with not even a dressing gown. He was covered by a sheet, thankfully, but the funeral director told us he had arrived naked to the funeral home, and since he was to be cremated, that is how is mortal body remained.

Of course, this is not how we would want to face God on judgment day. Can you imagine?! But I trust God’s word:

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor 5:4,5)

Saturday morning cartoons, and centuries of human religions and philosophy present death as the slipping away of a wisp of a spirit from our body. Like our body is solid and the spirit lacks substance. But Christianity turns this on it’s head. The Bible talks of the things of this life as a shadow of the reality in heaven.

I trust in God’s word, though again, I had to fight believing what my eyes observed. Dad’s body seemed swallowed by death and as his spirit departed — it was alarming… jarring… threw me into a tailspin of grief! At least in cartoons, you get to see a ghost or something go. But in reality, the person is just gone. They are no longer with you. One second they are there, and then they are not.

I was not allowed to be a heap on the floor for long as I had to recover enough to help prepare for the funeral. I kept busy that week, my mind distracting itself from my father being gone. But then came the funeral.

I couldn’t believe all we had left of my father was a small bag of ashes. Then we let the ground swallow it up. That was not easy. That brought reality crashing back. But is it reality? Is reality what we can see with our eyes? There is so much of God’s word, especially the New Testament, that I don’t think can really grasp the meat of until we’ve lost a loved one. So many verses and passages move from being a point of interest to a life line.

God tells me these were only the remains of a burnt up tent and Dad was now with his Lord, swallowed up by life. He is clothed, and not unclothed before his God because of his faith in Jesus, who covered Dad’s sins. Dad trusted in the innocent suffering and death of Jesus to be sufficient, so that the suffering and death my Dad deserved would only happen to his body and now he is free and with his Lord, fully clothed in the white robes promised:

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)