Borrowed Time

July 29, 2013

More than 6,000 in my country die each day –

But one out of these precious six-thousand today strikes closer to home.

Just a few months ago, a chest x-ray revealed a relentless cancer, spreading through his lungs; eating away at his body; and leaving him shocked, frustrated, and desperately fighting for life.

Clinical staff spoke of him in quiet tones, aware that the dying man was not emotionally prepared to breathe his last.

He arrived at the clinic – confined to a wheelchair pushed by a family member. Only his hollow coughs and the pumping of his oxygen tank broke the silence. He waited, face expressionless.

What can you say to a dying man?

“How are you doing, Fred?”

He looked up from his wheelchair with sad eyes as I led the way for the mournful procession into an exam room.

“Okay,” he paused. “I have no appetite. I can hardly taste anything anymore.”

As I took his vital signs, I glanced at his three relatives sitting by the side of the room. They shared quiet whispers as I worked.

What can you say to a dying loved one’s family?

“Have you been enjoying the summer weather?” As the words spilled from my mouth, I wondered why I even asked.

They shrugged, and glanced at each other. “I guess,” one replied.

Of course. Who would be enjoying the weather today when they knew a loved one would not be enjoying it with them tomorrow?

Wrapping a blood pressure cuff around his right arm, and placing the chest piece of a stethoscope, I listened to his heart’s steady rhythm.  In maybe a matter of days, this heartbeat will cease.

I paused before I left him, wishing that I could speak with him further, assure him of God’s faithfulness, and pray with him.

Before turning to leave, I softly placed my hand on his denim sleeve. “It was nice to see you again, Fred. I hope you have a good day.”

He nodded, looking up at me. “Thank you – and you too.”

I paused in the clinic hallway, closing the door behind me and trying to hold back a flood of emotions.


It was the last look, the last interaction I would have with him in this world. I wonder what I could have done more to help him, and if the little that I did do made any difference to poor Fred.

My heart sank at the news of his death, and I wondered if he was prepared to die.

But oh friends…

Sin is a malignant poison, eating away at the souls of every creature. Humanity fights for life, desperate for love and peace, but so often turning away from its only Source.

The Lord never promised that our trail would not be marked with pain and tears as well as peace and joy. He never said that our hearts wouldn’t break and be broken again. But in this reality we find the beauty of His tender mercy – He does not promise to remove hardship and sorrow, but instead plants Himself by our side, to stand as our shield and support through every storm of life.

No pain is too great to overpower “the love that will not let me go.”

How do I dare to relax and enjoy the prospective “peace and safety” of today, when I know that precious souls lying in my pathway could spiritually (or physically) die tomorrow?

Waiting for a touch of love and compassion, yearning to know the peace that passes all understanding.

What is my life saying to this dying world of ours?

We’re living on borrowed time. More importantly, on God’s time. Are we living like it?


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