Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
As my wife and I started preparing for our latest trip, we realized how badly we would be hurting upon our return before we ever left.
Each time the topic came up in our conversation, I suggested that I could fly her to the events and stay home. She did not like that idea. We had to do it this way, because it might be the ‘last time.’ But she would also say, “We will not speak in such terms. This is about our nephew who is getting married and two grandchildren having birthdays. If we bring up the unspoken topic, it will suddenly be about us.”
Why the focus on the unspoken topic? My wife recently had a consultation with her kidney doctor who referred her to a dialysis counselor. That appointment is coming up next month. The doctor was confident that my wife would not need dialysis for five or ten years, if…
My wife survived open-heart surgery last year. Her kidneys actually improved for a little while, but with the A-Fib that developed for a few weeks, the kidneys drifted back to the pre-surgery function levels. We got our flu shots, but we both got the flu. Only problem was that the flu started the A-Fib again. The treatment for the flu and A-Fib symptoms combined was injurious to the kidneys, and she went into kidney failure. With the kidney doctor team taking over, she recovered, but not to the previous level.
The doctor’s “IF” referred to the next illness. He could not guarantee a recovery as my wife has had in the past. Travel, especially by car, is not easy while on dialysis.
But there was the bigger “unspoken” in the air also, someone dying. My wife may have the most internal organ maladies, but her older brother recently fell, causing several injuries, none threatening. Her two younger brothers have medical problems, one recently receiving a pacer maker, the other needing three surgeries later this year – two cataract surgeries, but the other is exploratory in nature. Her four sisters seem to be in fairly good health.
With most of the nephews and nieces married, the happy reasons for the next family visit are behind us. That just leaves the unspoken.
The sister who was the mother of the groom finally mentioned the big unspoken, telling my wife that the next time we see each other will probably be for a funeral. My wife told her to not discuss it, maybe thinking she was next.
The sisters and brothers that live in Texas would never think of such things. They have a few gatherings each year. One sister has a crawfish boil in her backyard near Mother’s Day, near or on her birthday. Other gatherings are less rigidly scheduled. The thought of the unspoken might never cross their minds.
The problem with it being unspoken is that you always have the idea that we can talk about this or that – next time.
I faced the same unspoken with my sister in a two-hour lunch visit near where she lives – our longest side trip on our journey, from Memphis, TN to Ecru, MS, there and back. Travel is so painful for my sister that any further of a drive on her part and she would have not shown up. She has pain walking and standing. All other modes of transportation just add to the pain. Since she is eleven years my senior, it makes things even more urgent to say “this” or “that” now, and not wait for “next time.”
We had hugged and said the normal stuff as we went to our various automobiles after the meal. But my sister forgot that we had already said our words of endearment. She yelled, “I love you” after the laborious job of getting her into the car was over. I yelled the same words back. I had not shed a tear for the passing of our parents or our brother before them, all passing away in 2011. As I said those words and then climbed into our rental vehicle, my eyes were wet.
Let’s not talk about the next visit or the unspoken reason for the next visit. Let’s keep that unspoken. But for this visit, let’s tell each other that we love them. Shedding tears now is more important than when the unspoken comes to pass.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.