One of the words that seems to come up a lot in the conversations I have with my wife these days is “overwhelmed.” Three small boys means lots of crying, whining, fighting, messiness, arguing, complaining about food, and oh yes, discipline for teachable moments. It means we don’t get out much alone together, and the time we do have on the couch is often interrupted time—a baby crying in the other room is our ambient background music, the thundering herd trampling the floor above while we watch TV together, or a four-year-old whose gift is interrupting your sentences.
But God is too gracious to let us wallow in that kind of self-pitying thinking. My wife and I got word yesterday through a few sources that our friends from a few seasons ago in life, who have been walking through the husband’s battle with cancer over the last year, are now at home with hospice care. They are roughly our age, and found out earlier this week that no more treatment could be sought. The cancer has taken over his body. They are now at home preparing for him to die.
As I read the wife’s update on their situation, where she continued to express how difficult it was but how much they had to rejoice in from the Lord’s provision, I just sat there stunned, a sobered mess. Her husband is dying, and the words on her lips are these, “For to me to live is Christ, andto die is gain” (Phil 1:21).
Moses’ prayer is right, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). I don’t have forever to be with my kids and my wife; my life is a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. The sobriety of the situation causes me to come home, see the toy-strewn living room, see the boys covered in mud in the backyard, see my wife, and with tears in my eyes hug each one of them a little tighter, grateful for the few brief moments we have. You won’t get to love this time forever.
Wisdom is knowing that the time is short and living in accord. It’s not just a cliché country song. And I wouldn’t spend my time jumping out of planes or riding bulls (sorry Tim). I’d probably just be more appreciative and delight more in the time we have together.
I’m also tearfully grateful that, as my friend and brother dies, and as our hearts break in agony, the Lord is faithful to uphold all of his people. The wife who sits by his side. The husband who can’t hold on. The parents who will never stop loving their boy. And the Lord who never leaves any of us, who is being exalted through his servant.
“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matt 14:27).
My brother and friend, in the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘Christians do not say goodbye.’ But I will miss you.