Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How Doctors Die

I came across a thought-provoking question and answer on Quora yesterday: "What are some things that doctors know, but most people don't?" Answering that question was Dr. Joanna Bisgrove, a family physician: "The most important thing that doctors know and accept that most people don't is the limits of what medicine can do."

She discussed the public's mistaken notion that we don't have to take care of ourselves; doctors can always find a pill to make us better.

Then finally she wrote, "I recently read an article about how doctors die. Usually we die quietly, without much medical intervention. We have seen too many times families who, in the grips of fear, pray for a miracle and ask us to do 'everything.' What families don't understand is that often 'everything' merely gives their extremely ill loved one a prolonged, tortured death."

During my years as a parish pastor, I had my share of death bed visits and funerals. Each of those experiences, along with the death of my own parents and other loved ones, brought me face to face with my own death, which is coming sooner or later.

That might sound morbid -- something you don't want to think about. But Jesus Christ changed all that, didn't He? By His death and resurrection He removed the sting of death. Since He took my sins on Himself and destroyed them on the cross, I don't have to fear God's judgment when I die. His short rest in the borrowed tomb reminds me that my own burial will be temporary, followed by a glorious resurrection when He returns.

And that, in turn, puts the rest of my life's goals and objectives in a sharper, clearer, healthier perspective. Possessions and things I acquire and accumulate become less important. It's the people -- and the experiences -- of this life I need to treasure as I try to squeeze as much as I can into the years God grants me on this earth.

But that reminds me of another priority, which happens to coincide with my vocation here at Lutheran Hour Ministries. It is urgent to make as many people aware of God as possible. In a world that denies God's existence, that denies a coming day of judgment, along with our eternal future in heaven or hell, it is essential that I make as many people aware as possible, beginning with my family and friends.

Maybe your vocation doesn't do that directly. Perhaps your life's work is to sustain life and help hold this fallen world together. If so, do it with all your might because it pleases God and serves your neighbor. But don't neglect the opportunity God gives you to talk to others, to make them aware of their eternal destiny, so they too can face death with confidence and peace: the peace Jesus alone can bring.

Then when that last day of life looms near and our earthly work is done, Jesus Christ will be our comfort, support, hope, strength and our eternal rest.

That day's coming for all of us. May God find us ready when it does.

Care to tell us about any choice encounters you've had with the world of medicine or the death of a loved one? If so, you can do this by clicking here and letting us know what you think.


Marvelous Mark said...

Great article! I remember being at the bedside of a spouse of one of our members. He was not Christian, but claimed another religion. I will never forget how he shook with fear, literally. He was so afraid to die. He hoped and hoped and hoped that God would accept him and not torture him. At his funeral the rabbi read and read and read from Messianic Passages. I thought, oh, so close...so close indeed. Jesus was not confessed, sad to say. Never forget how I felt, and wished, and prayed that day. But, I will never forget how I appreciated what the Prince of Peace can do. I need not fear death.

Anonymous said...

I am not a person who "forwards" a lot, however, this article stuck me as one to share, share, share! Thank you for addressing this in "just the right way"!