In the aftermath of my father’s death, I was reading through several journal entries. I wrote this one in response to the recent buzz about the “Death with Dignity” movement. I wanted to share Dad’s story of dignity and courage as he tirelessly fought his own battle with cancer. We had this printed in the programs at his memorial service:
Dignity and Courage
Courage is waking up in the morning and choosing to live another day, not because he feels he has the right to make that choice, but because he knows his Creator has given him another breath to breathe for the glory of His kingdom.
He breathes each breath with dignity because he knows they bear eternal value.
Courage is fighting to take those breaths despite the pain that accompanies each one.
Courage is waking up to a day full of unknowns, and dignity is facing them with a quiet peace in knowing the God who is ultimately in control of them all.
Courage is enduring days, months and years worth of doctors’ appointments, tests, and treatments, most of which yield unfavorable results, but he faces them with dignity knowing his fate isn’t actually in the hand of the human doctors, but in the hand of an omnibenevolent, sovereign God whom he knows personally, intimately.
Courage and dignity mean fighting for life, though it is painful, exhausting, and uncomfortable, because he knows there is more to life than comfort. He fights because he loves his family and he serves them with words of truth, moments of laughter, and a heart full of love during these days that he counts as gifts from God.
Dignity is indeed treating each day as a gift and mindfully cherishing and using those gifts in ways that attest to the reality that there is a God and He is good even in the gravest of circumstances.
Dignity is thanking God for the cancer that will eventually take his life because he knows that through this trial, many will come to a saving knowledge of God’s Son, the one who gave His life so that we may be offered eternal life.
Courage is moving forward because of the realities of salvation, redemption, and glorification.
Courage and dignity are accompanied by a third element, essential for being able to live this kind of life: Hope
Not a hope that crosses its fingers and wonders, but a hope that knows. A hope that knows God has already ordained when he will take his last breath, immediately followed by his first breath of eternal life.
Hope that knows God has the power to heal his cancer here on earth, but also knows of a far better healing that takes place in eternity.
A hope that knows he will one day be face to face with his Savior and be able to engage in worship in its purest form, completely free of the curse of sin. That glorious day, his faith will become sight, and he will know it was worth it. It was worth the fight. It was worth living with courage.
This is death with dignity.