SPOILER ALERT: This post begins somber but gets joyful!
I’ve been around a lot of sickness lately. And death. About a month ago a friend’s father passed away after a long struggle with Parkinson’s. My wife and I went to the tavern where a remembrance gathering was held. There was food and beer and a projection screen playing a slide show of family photographs. The event was nice, “nice” being a relative term here. Because how enjoyable can such an occasion be?
And shortly after that death, an old friend’s mother passed away. I’m not really in contact with that friend anymore, but I still felt deep sighs of his pain as I contemplated the news. I heard she passed while on vacation in warmer weather. I remember the mother. I remember the teenage gatherings at that house. At the end of our sophomore year of high school—a year that saw our JV basketball team go on an especially electric tear—that mom and her husband hosted the end-of-the season party for all of the players and coaches. I’m sure that man is missing his wife right now, and I’m sure my old friend is missing his mother, even as I write this.
And just last week my father’s uncle passed away. He was my deceased grandfather’s brother—one of two siblings—and now a paternal generation is gone. Over the years my wife has always commented on how handsome those two were—my grandpa and his brother—and they could be quite debonair, too. I hope that I carry the family charm (and the resistance to male hair loss) well into my old age as those two did. I hope that I do something meaningful with the family name.
Whew! There. That was a lot of sadness to open with, but this isn’t a morose post. Trust me! And it isn’t a post that is focused on endings. Instead, I’m writing about beginnings—new beginnings—and as we approach the passion of Good Friday and the miracle of Easter morning, new beginnings are what we ought to be focused on. Especially if we’ve been faced with pain, or even death, in our lives lately.
As I’ve gotten busier with my health & wellness coaching, I’ve found myself sitting more and more frequently in the midst of profound pain. A lot of my coaching work is done with individuals who are working their way through antidepressant withdrawal and/or benzodiazepine withdrawal, and oftentimes such scenarios are steeped in many agonizing symptoms. The sickness of withdrawal might comprise many dozens of frightening physical, mental, and emotional features, so as I counsel my clients toward inner peace and better health, I’m forced to not only feel their pain, but to once again walk the road of my own withdrawal experience from years back. Many people going through prescription drug withdrawal fear it is the end. The end of the road, the end of productivity. The end of exciting and joyful living. But I know from experience that it isn’t any of those things. At least it isn’t if we approach it correctly—if we see the circumstances as simply a temporary path that can and will lead to something greater.
Despair and perpetual tears and acidic bitterness: that is what pain and sickness and death can do to us in this life. That is, if we allow this whole merry-go-round of existence to be separated from spiritual faith. However, when the challenges and heartaches of life are viewed within the context of the New Reality that this holy weekend reminds us of, then everything changes. When we accept, truly accept, the notion that this life is simply a temporary path that leads to something greater—a wonderful and meaningful path, but temporary nevertheless—then we can find the one true remedy for sickness and death: the love and life and passing and resurrection of the God-man named Jesus Christ.
Because when Jesus came to bring light into this world, He came not only to calm our earthly anxieties and heal our earthly pains. He also came to assuage our fears of death. He came to take away that ultimate worry, the one that can otherwise suck the joy out of even the healthiest and most prosperous of lives.
I’ll admit it. I’m someone for whom the reality of death looms large (and at times with troubling weight). Every time that someone I know passes on, I wonder, when will that grim reaper swipe closer to home? When will it be time to say goodbye to a parent or a brother? When will my wife be taken from me, or I from her?
A couple of years ago my wife almost died in the hospital. When surgery was scheduled for what turned out to be a benign mass, what was supposed to be a routine laparoscopic process to remove an ovarian tumor turned complicated. The surgery grew long and additional doctors were called in. We didn’t go home that night, and in fact, my wife almost never made it home at all because the doctors and nurses negligently had her on too much morphine.
While recovering from her surgery in our hospital room, my wife began moaning and complaining of a severe headache, insisting something was wrong. But the nurse didn’t seem to think that the situation was odd or urgent. It would pass, we were assured.
So when my wife became more irritable and began complaining about every little noise, I snuck into our bathroom to eat a 10 p.m. granola bar without disturbing her. And when I came out of the bathroom, an alarm was sounding. Her oxygen cannula had fallen from her nose. She didn’t respond to me. Here eyes were rolled back in her head.
I called her name and smacked her cheek, but still she didn’t respond. I looked to the doorway for help. Nobody.
It was a quiet weekend and we were in a quiet wing of the hospital, so no nurses were coming by to check on things. I pressed the call button, and when someone answered, I said we needed help. Now!
A nurse who’d just arrived for the p.m. shift change came rushing in, and then she called for backups who asked a couple of questions and then stuck my wife in the chest with a shot of the anti-opiate Narcan. (In case you don’t know, that is what they do for heroin overdoses, too.)
My wife, by the grace of God, came back to life that night. But had I not stayed in the hospital with her, would anyone have gotten to the room quickly enough to revive her? I try not to ask myself that question too often, but still, it’s something that I can’t help but wonder about from time to time.
During my wife’s sickness and hospital stay, I came face to face with our mortality. Just as I did during my own withdrawal (when I was convinced I was dying from some insidious disease), and just as I do every time that someone I’ve known—either closely or casually—passes out of this world.
In this life we can always improve bad situations. We can leave unfulfilling jobs, abusive relationships, or bland suburbs. We can find fulfillment and adventure. We can pursue our dreams and learn to love ourselves. We can change our diet, our lifestyle, and our mental landscape to improve fatigue, anger, anxiety, and depression. But THE END? The BIG END? What is the remedy for that?
If Good Friday and Easter didn’t exist, I don’t know how I could ever move forward in this life. This life that can include so much pain and that will ultimately one day flicker less brightly and fade and then fade some more. Without the promise of an eternal, tear-free, pain-free reunion with my loved ones and the God who loved us all enough to die for us, what would be the point?
But I guess that is the point. That faith—that promise of eternal joy and significance—is the foundation that everything else must rest upon. That is what allows us to enjoy the journey of this life in the first place, the journey of finding work that excites us and love that makes us feel alive. That is what allows us to even care about getting healthier and happier. That is what allows us to believe that our time on this earth matters, because our souls and our loves don’t die then; they simply pass into the next step of a beautiful reality.
Because of Easter, the “ends” are anything but permanent. They are simply new beginnings, and even though death is sorrowful, it isn’t final.
This week, no matter what challenges or sorrows you are struggling with—whether health challenges, financial challenges, professional challenges, or even the ultimate challenge of facing a loved one’s death—please allow Good Friday and Easter to give you much needed perspective and hope. Healing and eternal joy are yours because of those days.
Because Jesus ushered the ultimate New Beginning into this world, the end is never the end for us. On this Earth He can heal our physical and emotional pains and infirmities a million times over to grant us countless fresh starts, and then, when all is “said and done,” nothing is really said and done. Nothing is over. Rather, it is just the beginning of a beautiful eternity. One that allows our souls and our loves to live on without end.
May this weekend bring you emotional healing and offer you new measures of strength and hope. Please have a very blessed Good Friday and a very Happy Easter.
Michael S. Priebe
Michael Priebe is a writer and personal development coach who has studied psychology, literature, and print journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he graduated with honors. and over the years he has used both fiction and nonfiction formats to write about health, sports, professional life, politics, relationships, and spiritual issues. He puts out a variety of spiritually inspiring content at The Lovely Grind, and he blogs about his life at www.michaelpriebewriter.com. He invites you to reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.
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