The above is a continuation in the practice of solitude as written by Richard Foster in "Celebration of Discipline." It's hard hitting for me because on Saturday, I lost another friend. Dying at age 40, leaving her husband and 13-year-old daughter is something that just "should not happen."
I find myself thinking that we should all stand still in time, just as Michelle will for us. While I firmly believe she is alive in Christ and that she is fully healed now, I struggle with her absence. I struggle that the sun is still shining brightly and that life is so vibrantly going on for the rest of us.
Michelle was a part of a group of 50+ women who came together because of the common diagnosis of breast cancer at a common time (late 2011/early-mid 2012). We were drawn together because we were going through the same treatments at the same time. We lamented side effects, laughed at hair loss, took pictures of hair regrowth, cried at the impact all of this was having on our families.
Michelle's cancer was quite aggressive. She was clear of known disease in November 2012, but recurrences were found in February. It quickly moved to her bones, lungs and liver, never responding to any of the treatments that were tried. On November 7, she decided to stop treatments completely so that she could have some good days before her death. She and her family made some memories and on Saturday, December 21, Michelle left us.
Living hurts. Dying hurts. I'm caught in the middle of not wanting to live (longing for eternity with Christ) and of not wanting to die. Of wanting to make a difference in this world and of just slipping into the quiet. The world doesn't revolve around my existence. The world will continue along without me just fine.
And that hurts. It hurts that my life is going on while Michelle's life on this side of eternity has stopped. It hurts that the same thing will happen when it's my time to pass through the veil as well.
My thoughts went to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. It's a sobering book ... going through joys and sorrows. However, the last chapter does summarize things well and helps to provide balance for me.
Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young,
Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire.
In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.
Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.
The Quester says that everything’s smoke.
The Final Word
Besides being wise himself, the Quester also taught others knowledge. He weighed, examined, and arranged many proverbs. The Quester did his best to find the right words and write the plain truth.
The words of the wise prod us to live well.
They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together.
They are given by God, the one Shepherd.
But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this:
Do what he tells you.
And that’s it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil. [The Message]