Worthy Women Say Goodbye
Worthy Women Say Goodbye
A heart that loves God has the strength to say goodbye, grieve, and then continue living a Godly life. I wonder if anyone is ever prepared to lose a mate, son, father, or a brother. It was stomach cancer that actually took my fifty-three year old cousin, Doug. He died the way he lived, surrounded by people that he loved.
Doug was a country boy, an executive, a politician, a musician, and a “manly” man. He loved a good joke and knew how to play. He loved God and was wise. He wasn’t perfect. I have seen him angry and afraid. He hated hurting people’s feelings and sometimes didn’t stand up for himself. He was someone people loved to be around.
While dying, Doug experienced his emotions and freely expressed them. He occasionally interrupted the dying process to encourage people around him. He lifted his oxygen mask to give advice about my career. He overheard us talking about the problems with the starter on my car and offered suggestions. He stopped gasping long enough to tell his co-worker where the keys were. He often told his family he loved them. He greeted everyone that walked in the room with his smile. He made jokes with his sister.
Karen, his wife of 27 years, stood by his bed holding his hand. She did this with tears pouring down her face. It was heart breaking to watch her mingle her love and her grief. Doug’s mother, sister, and daughter stood surrounding him. As I watched them say goodbye, it occurred to me that the way they prepared for this day was to spend their life trying to be "Worthy Women."
The term "Worthy Woman" comes from Proverbs 31:10-31. This scripture is a road map for having a happy and balanced family life. Because Karen was worthy, Doug trusted her. Karen made decisions regarding his treatments, food, and medicines. Doug never questioned her. Karen loved Doug and listened to her heart. Others cared and wanted to offer suggestions. Doug listened only to Karen. Karen accepted her assignment from Proverbs and honored his trust.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. (from New International Version)
When Doug saw me walk into his hospital room, he was confused. Doug removed the mask from his face. “Why are you here?” Doug asked.
“I wanted to see you again,” I answered.
“But you were just here,” he gasped. “How can you take this much time away from your job?” Talking was a struggle for him so I tried to change the subject. He was persistent. He cared about other people right up until the end.
“OK, Doug. I’ll have to tell you. I lost my job. I am passing through here on a trip across America.” He looked concerned but sunk back into the pillow. He put the mask back on his face. He rested for a few minutes. I thought the conversation was over. He looked at me and again removed the oxygen mask.
He said, "Cheryle, I know you think that job was important. You are wrong. It is not important at all. Look at what is happening to me. When this first happened, I thought my job was important."
Doug had an exciting job that he loved. We were all very proud of his success. He reached over and took his wife Karen’s hand. He squeezed her hand and said, "I realized this is what is important. Being her husband is the best job I have ever had."
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. (from New International Version)
All of the women standing around Doug’s bed are very strong women. They work with their hands. His second daughter, Erica works on an assembly line wearing steel-toed shoes. In the hospital, she moved beds and chairs with ease. Karen has chronic back trouble and yet she supported Doug physically through the many challenges of his illness. When asked how her back was, she simply said she was not thinking about it.
Aunt Margaret is amazing. She is in her seventies. She works in the yard and is in excellent physical condition. Cousin Luann does repair work on equipment.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. (from New International Version)
Doug’s manager visited the hospital. “Doug is the best worker I have ever had. I wish I could clone him. He is a great leader.” The church expressed their love for Doug. On the day of his funeral, the church marquee said, "Doug, we love you." He was obviously "known in the gates." Now he is standing "in the gates of heaven."
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (from New International Version)
For Karen, smiling at the future is hard. She faces an empty house and a lonely broken heart. I expect Karen to face this loss with the same strength she has faced other changes in her life. She is from Germany. “I have been lonely before. My mother died when I was a child. My father immediately sent me to boarding school.” Twenty-seven years ago, she moved to America with her brand new husband. She learned a new language. “I was mad at God. I had lost so much in my life. Doug was a Christian and insisted that I go to church. One night, I was singing a solo. I stopped and could not continue singing. I knew I needed Jesus in my life. I accepted Christ standing on the stage in church. Now I know what it means to be truly loved.”
“Are you going to be OK?” I asked.
“My church family will help me. My daughter, Erica lives next door. My grandson is a joy. I will have love in my life.”
Aunt Margaret was losing the second of her three children. Her son Bill was in an automobile accident at fourteen and was paralyzed. He finally died at age twenty-two. “I have a daughter left. Many people don’t even have one child. I am blessed,” she said with understanding.
And on her tongue is the law of kindness. (from NKJV)
Luann is a peacemaker and speaks with wisdom. When there was tension, she understood all sides and helped make peace. “Karen is just tired,” she would explain. “Mama is tired,” she said another time. “It will be all right, Big Brother,” she assured Doug. She told jokes in the hospital room. She honored Karen’s position as Doug’s wife and gave gentle support. She was consistently kind to everyone throughout the ordeal.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. (from New International Version)
Doug loved his wife. He said, “She is the best wife a man could ever hope for.”
Karen gently leaned over to Doug and said, "I love you."
Doug replied, "I love you too." Erica gently cared for Karen and was very protective of her mother.
“Doug, can I do anything for you?” Brother Jimmy asked.
“I am not afraid to die. I know where I am going. I just hate to leave my family. Help my family,” Doug weakly replied.
Doug passed away on Friday. I watched as he gently drew his last breath, surrounded by love. Karen’s daughter held her as she began to wail. Brother Jimmy lead a prayer as everyone freely held each other and expressed our grief. We praised God that Doug was with Jesus. Luann left and went outside with her daughters. I watched as they held her close. Uncle Preston and Aunt Margaret cried on each other’s shoulder. I tried to help where I could.
After we left the hospital, I went back to my room and took Aspirin. I had spent the last 48 hours at the hospital and was exhausted. I slept for fourteen hours. When I awoke, I felt the need to worship privately. I took my bicycle and headed to Callaway Gardens. Callaway Gardens is 14,000 acres in the foothills of the Appalachians. Carson Callaway founded the garden in the 1930’s.
I praised God for Doug’s life as I rode my bike by flowers, lakes, and wildlife. I thought about all of the emotions I had witnessed over the last several days. There was the romantic love that was clearly expressed between husband and wife. There was the love between brother and sister and parent and child. These women are not perfect. The grief was so deep that it was almost unbearable. I saw empathy from their friends and church members. There was joy as memories were shared. I watched hope bloom when it seemed Doug was improving and discouragement set in when conditions worsened. The wide range of emotions exhausted everyone. I even watched anger flair up between them as difficult decisions were made or their anguish needed an outlet.
Yes, these are strong and worthy women. Part of their strength is their ability to freely feel and express their emotions. Their hearts were broken on this terrible day. Earlier in the chapter, we talked about the causes of our broken hearts. Hearts are broken by our sin, the sin of others, or circumstances beyond our control. The pain of losing Doug was due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. While not everyone acted perfectly, the illness was the true cause of their collective broken hearts.
These women now have the same choice that each Christian has when we experience heartbreak. These worthy women could choose to feel cheated that their precious Doug was taken from them. After all, it does seem unfair. He was so kind, good, and Godly. They could choose to exacerbate the situation by remembering the humanness of their family in those terrible moments. They could grow brittle and bitter as they wallowed in their misery. They could isolate themselves from the world around them and give up on life. They could still be talking about their broken hearts twenty years from now.
Or, they could feel their grief and accept their circumstances. They could forgive each other for not being perfect. They could seek understanding and recognize the hand of God in the ordeal. They could praise God for the life of Doug and his eternity in heaven. They could love each other and share their memories. They could allow God’s love to heal their wounds. Their faith could grow as they watch God working miracles through this tragedy in their lives. These worthy women could truly experience, and then exhibit, the Fruits of the Spirit.