Death observed, embraced, conquered

I watched my mother-in-law die this morning. Her labored breathing — “chain breathing,” I believe the charge nurse called it — grew quieter, slower, more shallow, and at 6:15 a.m., 12 days shy of her 85th birthday, she finally won her decades-old battle to gain release from a body that always seemed more enemy than friend.

I know of no one who suffered more through the decades than her. She survived cancer — twice. She underwent open heart surgery and two angioplasties and at least three heart attacks (that we know of). She had three hip replacements. She had arthritis and osteoporosis. In the end, a ridiculous fractured pelvis cause complications that her poor heart couldn’t cope with. Her body was, indeed, a battlefield, with the scarred landscape to prove it.

In the 35 years I knew her, I never heard her utter a single word in expression of bitterness or resentment at her situation. Anger? Perhaps a touch, but it was always a tool for overcoming obstacles, instead of surrendering to them. Her usual demeanor was one of humility, grace and humor, and people around her went away feeling uplifted, even if they came to her with the intention of lifting her up.

We miss her, of course…terribly. But none of us would wish to draw her back from where she is now. In the hours before she passed, moving in and out of lucidity, she spoke of climbing out of the bed, getting in her car, grabbing a hamburger and just…going.

I imagine her arriving at the gates of heaven in a large-finned Caddy, one strong healthy arm draped out the window, and empty Burger King bag at her side. She’s gotten her wish…she got to leave, and her destination is more wonderful than anything we can ever imagine.
Lil, we’ll join you someday; keep the motor running, sweet lady. And I call dibs on shotgun.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

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20 comments

  1. I’m so sorry. I have always admired those that could take a less than ideal hand that was dealt them and move right past it. In this case health.
    The hands are all good now. Nothing hurts, everything works…..and you surely get upgrades there even, don’t you?

  2. Your tribute spoke to us as I knew it would. Thanks for letting us know your thoughts on Lil’s passing. Since Jesus knows what you wrote, I’ll bet He has shared it with her and I know she’s pleased! May each of you find the comfort only the Lord can give as you move through this week. Know that we’re praying and that we care.
    Phyllis and Phamily

  3. Eric,
    We love you and want to support you and Debbie in any way we can. What a precious tribute to Lil! May the Lord of all comfort shower His blessings of warmth and condolence on your hearts.

  4. From God’s heart, to your lips, to our ears…thanks for sharing your tribute. But mostly, thanks for listening for His message, in even this. God and Mrs. Funderburk must surely be smiling at your witness. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the entire family as you all administer (and minister) His work here on earth. Please let us know of ANY details we can take care of for you.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear about Lil passing on. I want you to know that myself and my team have been lifting you and Lil up to the Father. We will continue to do so for both of you. I love you guys and know that our Father will walk you through this valley and bring something beautiful out of it in the end.

  6. Eric,
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother-in-law, but I rejoice with you that she’s with the Lord and that you’ll be reunited one day. I look forward to meeting her too, she sounds like a great lady.
    I’m praying peace and comfort for ya’ll.

  7. Eric,
    I want you and Debbie to know that we are sorry with you for the loss of family. I have mentioned the loss to our other teammates and want you to know that we are all praying for you this week. I hope that you will find the peace that God has especially for people who experience loss. If there is anything that any of us can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.
    Love you man,
    Jim C.

  8. Eric –
    I hope that you and Debbie will accept my most hearfelt condolences over the loss of her mother. I know how that can hurt — my wife lost her mother not quite four months ago, and it will be difficult for her for quite a while to come. Like Lil, her mother had many health problems and her quiet passing was a blessing to both her and the rest of us. Like you, we know that she is finally in a place where she can be whole and be with her Savior. Though the “hole” will be there for some time to come, God promises to heal all. May His peace be with you both.

  9. Eric, your tribute to Lil is moving. Would that we all could face life’s troubles with her “humility, grace and humor.”
    I will remember this the next time I think of complaining about something…
    God bless you and your family and may our Lord receive Lil with open arms with a great big “welcome home”.

  10. Eric, I’m sorry to hear of your mom-in-law’s passing. It sounds as though you all are celebrating her life, and that’s great. And it does help so much to believe that it isn’t a real goodbye, but just a resting time between now and forever.

  11. While I tried in my typical feeble way to express my appreciation to you guys in the post dated 10/13, I want to reiterate my gratitude here. So, to Dan, Wallace, Jeff, Natalie, Phyllis, Gene, Bryan, Sherry, Daniel, Emily, Rachel, Jen, Mr. Phelps, Jim, David, Jack, Julie, Paul and Deb…I hope you know how special each of you are. Some of you I know well enough that you already know how much I love you; some of you I may never meet this side of heaven. But, somehow, you all feel like family to me.
    As my Aunt Burtis says, “a blessing on your punkin head!” And I mean that with all fondness and respect.

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