If you’ve ever sat with someone as they are passing away you’ve probably heard what is referred to as the “death rattle.” Hospice workers and others who deal with people in the dying process say that the death rattle is not uncomfortable for those generating it. It is, however, a hard thing to listen to for those sitting with their ailing friend or family member.
My mother passed away just a few days ago. She didn’t experience the death rattle but I did. It wasn’t my breathing that was rattled it was my entire life. I didn’t have some second sense of a religious experience but a rattling of my faith, my convictions, and my perspective. None of what I just mentioned was changed it was rattled, jostled, shaken up, and renewed.
One of the death rattles that took place was my attitude towards stuff. A few days after mother passed away some great friends helped me clean out her apartment. Aside from a few dollars, and a few pictures and knickknacks, the sum total of my mother’s material possessions headed to the land fill. The only things that stayed with us are only valuable because they were mother’s things. It isn’t so much what they are: it is who they are associated with, namely mother. If you are tempted to think that your life is somehow valued by the abundance of your possessions, allow me to rattle that thought today: Your life isn’t about possessions. Jesus says so in Luke 12:15.
Another rattle I received was remembering the value of relationships. My mother’s health had diminished because of small strokes. One hand still worked. When the caregivers she loved came in the room she would reach for them. When I came in the room her hand would reach for me and when I sat by her bedside she held my hand. In what seemed like the marathon of being with mom I had numerous people who came in to encourage me, pray with me and with mom as well, folks who would volunteer to sit with mom so I could stretch my legs………………..I don’t enjoy Barbara Streisand music but she sang a song called, “People Who Need People.” Believers in Jesus Christ are wired by God to live in community. We need to invest in relationships now because there is coming a time when God will desire to use us strategically in the lives of others and use others in our lives for His glory. Ephesians 4 talks about how God wants to use each of us to build up each other. Times of grief and mourning are one of those times when we need others and if we want strong relationships at that time then we need to prioritize relationships now.
A third rattle I received was the hope of the believer. When suffering and death take place so many people offer so many platitudes. I could retire if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “Oh she’s with Bob,” or “She’s in a better place,” or “now she’s your angel.” Please know that I am grateful for the heart behind those sentiments, I really am. What is the hope of the believer? Is it reuniting with family? Simply being in heaven? Do we get to become an angel? No…………. Our hope as believers is being united to Christ in the full measure of our redemption. Our hope is that we will see Him as he is. What makes heaven be heaven isn’t gold streets or pearly gates. What makes heaven be heaven is the presence of Jesus. Paul said in Philippians 1 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Mother is with the Lord!! Oh how I rejoice in that certainty. Having this last week of sitting with her and watching the dying process in her life gave me a bit of a death rattle. I want to live for Christ and not for stuff. I want to be Jesus to others and invest in their lives. I want to be anxious to be with Christ and not just to go to heaven. If my rattles have rattled you then I rejoice because all of us need to be rattled out of the routine at times. May the Lord rattle us all for His glory.