Thanks so much for the many prayers on behalf of Erik and Kelly — and for me for that matter. If you have been following the web updates on the Steffens’ website, you know that the news has been grim. It’s also been hard to interpret — on Monday the doctors and nurses said Erik may have just a couple of days to live. Yesterday, they again used the word “weeks.”
With the reality of death looking me in the eye every day, I have struggled to hold the various aspects of my own life together. I want to be with Kelly and Erik and have made arrangements to spend as much time as possible at the hospice center. In the meantime, my laundry is being neglected; I’m not returning phone calls; exercise for me and my dog is limited; when I do sleep, it’s often interrupted by nightmares and waves of anxiety and grief. If these were the last days of my life, would I want to see them pass this way?
And then I realize that the reality of Erik’s death is no more certain than the reality of my own. We all are living under a death sentence–physically, that is. Most of us get by without thinking too much about it. For years we are full of health. But as we ignore the truth, we begin to live differently, growing too fond of silly things and too complacent about what really matters.
Suffering — even the suffering that doesn’t threaten to end our lives — reminds us that we are made of dust, full of human limitations. But suffering also reminds us that we all will return to dust. This fact ought to matter in how we live each day, not just the last ones. It matters to the Lord: “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14
For some, this physical reality can breed fatalistism; if we’re going to die anyway, why bother. But for those of us in Christ, it leaves us hopeful. We know that physical death is not our ultimate end, just as we understand in faith that our outward fading produces inward renewal in truly miraculous ways. Renewal that is preparing us for the rest of this life and the next one.
While I work hard to be a faithful friend during this deep suffering, I also am wrestling with how to live the rest of my life with a little more of the intensity and intentionality that the thought of death brings–trusting in Jesus through all my sufferings, and longing for the greater life he brings on both sides of the grave.