Wednesday, January 04, 2006

CELEBRATING BENNY

Celebrating Benny
By Janice Price

Oh, God, please let him die quickly, without any more pain.

That was my initial reaction to the sight of Benny in the Intensive Care Unit on life support. At that moment, it seemed inconceivable he could recover.

A neighbor had discovered his body on the floor of his apartment. He had been stabbed numerous times, including in the stomach, spleen and intestines. An ambulance had delivered him, not to either of the closest medical facilities, but to a top-level trauma hospital.

His head was jerking up and down with each “breath” of the machine keeping him alive. He was covered with bandages, legs wrapped for circulation of blood, and strapped to the bed rails. Hardest to see were his eyes. They were wide open, unblinking and crusted. I didn’t know at the time he was agitated, refusing to close his eyes and rest, and trying to disconnect his life support before his older daughter Susie and I arrived. He had been given a drug to paralyze him so his body could rest.

Immediately, I regretted the thought. No circumstance is too great for God. Jeremiah 32: 17 (NIV) says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Benny could survive. We needed to wait to see how God answered our prayers to know if Benny would survive.

Over a period of three or four months, Benny moved from ICU to a “step-down” unit, to the rehabilitation building, to a nursing home, and then onto an eastbound plane to live near his son and younger daughter Sheila in New Jersey. I moved to Georgia and Benny moved back to Phoenix, Arizona with Sheila and her husband, but we never lost touch. Benny wrote encouraging letters of healing relationships within his family. He lived to see his last “baby” have her first baby.

We were neighbors who became friends because we shared a love of animals. He is the only person who has ever called me Jannie, until Sheila made the nickname “official.” Perhaps when her daughter begins to talk, she will continue the custom.

Then one day Benny was on life support once more. His heart, liver and kidneys were failing. Eleven years previously, it was not Benny’s time to die. This time it was and he was ready to go. His family did not plan a sad funeral. Instead, they planned a simple celebration of his life. These are my favorite lines from the copy of the eulogy his daughter sent to me:

“Death is not an end to life but rather the beginning of a new one, an everlasting one. Rather than grieve for ourselves, let us rejoice in the gifts that Benny left behind. Every one of you is here because Benny touched your lives.”

Benny and I shared a passion for reading, and for years he faithfully mailed boxes of books - mainly mysteries, biographies, and books on animals. He was excited when I started sending him copies of stories I was writing, although he would have been happier if they had been mystery books.

Writing mystery stories was once my dream, but my goal changed over the years. In my eulogy, I hope someone will be able to say I touched a life or two with the stories I write, hoping to encourage people to look to God for answers, strength, comfort, wisdom, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Benny should have died eleven years earlier than he did, but God granted him those extra years. I was relieved God did not grant the prayer request I breathed silently at the beginning of this story.

Knowing Benny was an adventure in friendship, but watching him virtually return from teetering on the edge of the grave was a visual lesson in God’s power and sovereignty. That is what Jesus essentially accomplished for us. We were teetering on the edge of the grave in our sins, and Christ paid the price to redeem us.


© 2006 Janice Price
www.mercyandpercy.com/

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