Several years ago, I was on staff with a fellow pastor who had been suffering with diabetes and its ill effects for most of his life. He was a single dad with two sons who were the same ages as two of my boys. His name was Mike, and we were close in age.
Mike had lost an eye and was undergoing kidney dialysis once a week. That eventually became almost twice a week. After a couple years of that, the dialysis treatments needed to be more frequent. Mike was getting pretty worn down – dialysis is extremely hard on the whole person and it is harder and herder to bounce back after each successive treatment. It would not be long before the dialysis team would be telling Mike that continuing the treatments was no longer ethical.
One day Mike started letting the people in his life know that he had told his doctors that he would not be back in for dialysis again. He had prayerfully considered everything and he decided that being lucid and dying quickly would be far better for everyone concerned than a prolonged deterioration that would be grim and painful all the way around.
Mike spent a lot of time with his boys, with his folks, and with his sisters and brother. He also invested a lot of time with different members of the church staff, and especially with different ones of the teens. See, Mike was also the Youth Pastor, and the kids loved him.
When we would do lock-ins at the church for the youth, Mike would play in the all-night Monopoly marathon game. He always used his false eye as his game piece – the kids thought it was wonderful that he could be so real and so accepting of his infirmities. It was just a part of the humble and gentle spirit that made him a good pastor and a great Christian man.
Mike’s last two weeks on this earth taught me a lot about death and dying – how to do it, how to minister in the midst of it, and what a godly end to a life could look like. He spoke very clear and honest things into people’s lives, and he did so with a real heart of love and a desire for whomever he was speaking to know that, as well as he knew them and as much as he loved them, the Lord knew them so much better and loved them so much more.