For many of us, death is a subject we don’t want to even think about, much less talk about. Nevertheless, we must all pass through its portal sooner or later, “for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”1
It was Christmas Eve 2013. Family and friends were gathered together enjoying the festivities of the season. As I was climbing the stairs, I lost consciousness and fell down two or three stairs. My husband, Richard, and grandson, Michael, rushed over, carried me upstairs, and put me to bed.
The strange thing about this abrupt turn of events is that I had been active, energetic, and full of vigor and vitality, even participating in regular yoga exercises, when my life unexpectedly went into a tailspin. At this point, we had no idea what was wrong, but a blood test showed that I had Hepatitis C. The doctor explained that this virus can be dormant in the body for as long as 30 years. We had been serving as missionaries for the last 40 years, and the most outstanding possibility of infection we could recollect was a foot operation I underwent with complications some 30 years before, which had required a blood transfusion.
During the next several months, I was rushed to the intensive care unit three different times. The doctors put me through every test imaginable, attempting to save my life, but the situation looked very bleak. When all hope seemed to disappear, the physicians finally advised my husband to take me home so I could die in peace, surrounded by loved ones.
Take me home he did, but Richard was not about to let me go. He and my family and friends from around the world prayed desperately day and night for my healing. I am sure that their love, concern, and prayers were key ingredients in my recovery. God is still on the throne and prayer changes things.
This wasn’t the first time I’d found myself approaching the threshold of the hereafter. I had been in this somewhat surreal dimension two times before, perceiving sound as from afar, almost as a distant echo—the first in a near-drowning experience when I was 13, and the second while entering a four-day coma. I felt myself slipping or being drawn away, as if there were an invisible vacuum sucking and pulling me. Feeling so helpless and unable to fight, I was losing strength and felt sure my earthly life was reaching its end.
This third experience began abruptly but moved far more slowly. Truly, I thought this time it was for keeps, that life was over for me. My weakened and bewildered state left me with thoughts of wondering if this rendezvous with death was worth the arduous fight to push back. The apostle Paul’s words rushed into my mind: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”2
I had virtually lost all hope of recovery and felt that even if given more time, I would be doomed to merely “existing,” a prisoner trapped in a shell of a body, completely helpless and dependent on others for everything, including being pushed around in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
Not afraid of dying, and with full assurance that I would go to heaven, I felt ready to accept my passage to the hereafter. Again, Paul’s words came to me: “To me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”3 Though not in prison, like he was, I was a prisoner of my own flesh, trapped in a near-helpless body, completely dependent on the care of others. My deep, innermost feeling was of being “torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.”4
Just when I was at the point of surrendering to death’s invitation, Richard leaned over and tenderly whispered in my ear, “Honey, I love you.” Though I’d heard these words countless times from him throughout the years, this time it was as though a blinding lightning bolt pierced through all that darkness, a bright luminous beacon of hope, coupled with love. Those endearing words catapulted me back to life! At that moment, I was invigorated with fresh strength and courage to overcome and defeat the sting of death.
Each morning that I see the rising sun, I have to pinch myself to acknowledge the fact that I’ve escaped the grave. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”5 I constantly remind myself that each day is a gift, and nothing is to be taken for granted.
I’m so grateful that my rendezvous with death got postponed. “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known His faithfulness to all generations.”6 “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.”7
- Genesis 3:19
- 2 Timothy 4:7
- Philippians 1:21 NLT
- Philippians 1:23
- Lamentations 3:22–23
- Psalm 89:1
- Psalm 146:2