Learning the Sacrifice of Thanks

ambulanceDying and gratitude. Those two concepts are unlikely co-inhabitants in a person’s thoughts. But when God comes in, a painful, distressing circumstance can be dynamically reformed, even as the Thanksgiving season looms

When my mother unexpectedly had a significant hemorrhagic stroke this fall, surprise, dread, and heartache all showed up. Even more unexpectedly, these mingled with gratitude and thanksgiving. Now, five weeks after her death, the permanence of my mom’s absence is more real, and sorrow has shown up.  And so has God.

From the beginning, when paramedics raced into my mom’s house, then through the weeks after her passing, we observed consistent evidence that God was present with her, and with us all. What comforting relief this has provided.

A few examples:

--a long-time, compassionate friend who I rarely see was on duty in the ER when mom was admitted and gave compassionate spiritual care.

--the serene autumn dawn on the third day of our vigil put me on “pause” during my rush to the hospital. The brilliant leaves, still air, and a chorale of bird song were a potent dose of Creator-designed ahhh.”

--The spontaneous hug of a stranger--the night charge nurse who I had only just met--comforted me hugely after she pronounced my mother’s death in the pre-dawn quiet.

Author Anne Graham Lotz recently expressed her own thankfulness amid hard circumstances. On her blog*, describing how her experience with breast cancer has altered her mindset, she noted that, for the follower of Christ, cancer [or death] can…

enrich love
refocus hope
strengthen faith
deepen prayer
command peace
bolster confidence
increase endurance
multiply friendships
enhance memories
open doors
realign priorities
grow courage
create empathy
tenderize compassion
develop character.

The end of my mom’s earthly life wasn’t the prelude I had anticipated for this season of giving thanks. It’s strange to be confronting grief and her absence with a certitude of how much God has done and given. But it’s true. God has made himself mystifyingly present with us. He answered so many people’s prayers for mercy and comfort and peace. It’s been so natural to earnestly agree with Psalm 50:12: “Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

* Latest From Anne: September 27, 2018. What Cancer Can Do.

Karen Schmidt, BA, RN, is a contributing editor for the Journal of Christian Nursing.


Additional Resources

Article: Good Grief: Living with Dying

Article: One Thousand Thanks

Book: Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme by David W. Pao

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