‘There is hope – never doubt it’Published 8:18pm Wednesday, July 27, 2011
When it comes to claims about the afterlife, I’ve always been a skeptical person. Whether the matter at hand concerned sightings of ghosts or reports about near-death visions of heaven, my general reaction usually included a healthy dose of disbelief.
To be perfectly honest, my past responses have been a product of a persistent doubt that has plagued me for many years. Even though I consider myself a Christian who believes in salvation by God’s grace though faith, I’ve struggled with belief for a long time.
This past month, however, my seemingly persistent doubts were challenged to their very core. You see, my Uncle Joe had been suffering from cancer for several months and this past week the end of his life was beginning to draw near. His body had been slowly deteriorating for quite some time, and a week ago on Wednesday his long struggle finally ended.
My mother was at her brother’s side during those final, terrible days. Yet, according to her, several things occurred during the ordeal that made the whole experience both awful and awesome at the same time.
One experience she told me concerned Joe’s inability to drink water during his final days. His throat muscles had weakened to such an extent that he would choke when attempting to drink any sort of liquid. Nothing the family tried seemed to help – he simply stopped drinking fluids a few days before his death.
The awful part of this incident occurred when Joe began begging for water. Everyone’s hearts were broken for there was nothing they could do.
Then, Joe suddenly began to cup his hands and bring them to his mouth, as if he were drinking an invisible glass of water. Someone asked him what he was doing and he responded by saying, “I’m drinking from the river of life.” He did this several more times and never asked for water again. The family members lucky enough to observe this began to rejoice in their own hearts, for it seemed Joe was beginning to experience the other side, and it was awesome.
His actions didn’t end here. He reported seeing family members, like his daughter who died in 1983. He said she was singing, and it was pretty. Also, he would suddenly ask for everyone to be quiet, because “they are coming to carry me over.” At the very end, Joe asked for his family to help him stand up, as if he were getting in line to cross over to the other side. As soon as he stood up, he died in his family’s embrace.
You might think my uncle’s visions were induced or influenced by the haze of morphine. It is true he was on painkillers during this ordeal. However, he was awake and lucid the whole time and never made paranoid or outrageous claims. I firmly believe he was reporting what he was experiencing at the time. He was a man crossing over the Jordan River. For a while, he was in both worlds.
Words really can’t express what this experience has meant to a doubting old fool like me. Seeing a good man, a Christian man like my uncle, face his death in this way brought a peace to my soul like nothing ever has before in my life.
I believe things happen for a reason. There is an overall purpose to our existence. Joe’s actions at his death have helped to alleviate my own doubts. For that, I am very thankful.
My hope is this story might serve to comfort someone else, maybe another family who is struggling with a recent loss. There is hope – never doubt it.
Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Record.