As you’ve probably heard, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away this week. The Reagan, Bush, and Clinton families were all a part of my childhood and young adulthood. I come from a political family, meaning my parents and grandparents sat around for hours, very often long past midnight, discussing political agendas, history, and how it all worked in conjunction with the Bible – particularly the book of Revelation. So although my Dad served as mayor in the town I grew up in, we weren’t a political family in terms of service so much as in terms of knowing our stuff and doing whatever we could to preserve America in ways the forefathers intended.
But I digress. Though the Bush family has been a part of my life, I won’t claim to know a plethora of information about Barbara. I only know what I’ve seen on television, and what I’ve heard about her throughout the years, whether from her own mouth or the media. She clearly had the good sense to be supportive of her husband – a quality highly lacking in today’s society where feminism and man-bashing are cool. Cruel is how I’d describe what’s going on with the treatment of men these days, but I realize I am considered old-fashioned and plain and probably abused and unjustly subdued by my husband (heh!). And I admired that about her. She did what it took for George to make it to the top and be successful, yes. But it was clear that behind the man at the top was a tip-top woman.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, says the first part of Proverbs 12:4, and Barbara was clearly an excellent wife.
Barbara was also a gracious woman. She was not afraid to speak her mind, but she always spoke it with grace, poise, conviction, and certainty. If you disagreed, that was okay, both with her and the one disagreeing.
She was family oriented, and clearly adored by her children and grandchildren.
We could go on. It’s customary to talk about a lady’s life after she dies, and she lived enough life to write several books. But for now, I want to talk about her death.
It is well known that Mrs. Bush went through some end of life health problems. She was in and out of the hospital for some time, and then a few weeks ago, she reportedly told her family she was finished with hospitalizations and the stress of fighting illnesses. In short, she was ready to die. So she went home and submitted to the natural course of life, which always, one hundred percent of the time, includes death.
I’ve personally known people who have done the same. My mother-in-law, who died seven years ago this June, did the same. After fighting a glioblastoma, the same brain cancer Ted Kennedy battled, and now John McCain is battling, she decided she had fought the good fight and was ready to go home.
She had already endured chemotherapy and some radiation. For over two years, she fought hard. She stayed with us as long as she possibly could, because she loved us more than her own comfort, and by her own admission, at the age of 70, she felt it was too early to die. She wasn’t finished living life. But she was also submitted to her Heavenly Father, and when it became clear she would not win the battle with cancer, she willingly deferred to Him.
I see that same trait in Barbara Bush. Though she was never called to battle brain cancer, she clearly duked it out with something. But when it was time to let nature take its course, she simply allowed it. She took the dying grace that God offered just in the nick of time, and died peacefully in her sleep. She chose not to be hooked up to every artificial life machine that was no doubt available to her, desperately grasping for every second of life she could possibly hold onto. But rather naturally, free of needle pokes and blood pressure cuffs and beeping heart machines, dressed (probably) in her own nightgown on her own sheets near the husband she couldn’t help but love.To me, that says confidence.
It says she made peace with God and was confident that though she could die before she woke, her soul would be kept by Him.
Strange how one day, a person doesn’t have dying grace and chooses to fight for their life with everything they’ve got. But when the time comes, if that person knows Christ and thereby knows that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (I Cor. 5:8), they suddenly possess dying grace. Barbara was not only given grace to live her life well. She was given grace to die well.
That’s the point, I think. If we don’t learn how to live well, we aren’t going to die well either. My mother-in-law learned how to live life well, and therefore died well. But I’ve been an eyewitness to other deaths that weren’t that way. Those who fight needlessly and recklessly in life also fight needlessly and recklessly in death.
It’s good to look at shining examples of life and death, like Barbara Bush. It’s how we learn to live and die ourselves. It’s also good to look at those who fight death as though it’s their worst enemy, for their actions cause us to ask what it is they fear so much.
For the Christian, death has lost its sting. Christ conquered the grave for those who trust in Him for salvation. Without that truth, I’d be terrified to die. As it is, I am terrified of the process of death. I don’t look forward to whatever method God chooses to take me home to be with Him. I’ve battled enough chronic sickness and healthcare in my life to know that being poked and prodded for years on end when you feel so weak, helpless, and ill is not for sissies. Getting old on top of sickness is going to be problematic for all involved if I last long enough to be officially labeled as old. But I’m not afraid of death itself. At least I don’t think I am. I know that when I go, my soul will be immediately ushered into the arms of Jesus, the safest place one could ever reside. I’m afraid of more sickness. More pain. More stress on my family. Of my soul being rent from my body, because that process is unnatural and to me, downright creepy. But I know from watching other deaths that perhaps the reason I fear it today is that today is not my day to go (unless it happens within the next two hours and seventeen minutes). So I don’t have dying grace today, this moment. However, when that moment comes, I’m confident He will give me dying grace.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Ps. 23). Future tense there. I fear the evil today that will undoubtedly be there in the valley of the shadow of death. Do we think Satan suddenly leaves us alone in death? No. I bet he harps on us, does his best to cause us to doubt God’s love and presence. But if we learn how to combat the enemy’s arrows in life, we can combat them in death. The Good Shepherd has assured us He is with us now, and will be with us then, helping us fight our good fight.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39).
Many thanks to Barbara Bush for reminding me that nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God, and for dying with grace and confidence in that truth.