Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Life Changing Hour

On Thursday at noon I will have the honor of officiating the funeral of Dody Ashman. Periodically, I take the opportunity to write on this blog and really focus on our Trinity family and this is one of those opportunities. I experienced two “firsts” with Dody: (1) While I have been with people who had just found out they were terminally ill, I had never been in the room when the group of doctors came in and shared that news with the family and patient. (2) While I have watched people in my congregation breathe their last breath here on earth and slip into eternity, I had never been with a member who was completely clear minded and awake just hours before their death and celebrating their homegoing. In each of these situations I watched the reality of God’s sovereignty carry Dody through these moments, and by resting in Christ, God used her to build up the body of Christ. 

On February 27th I sat in the room with Dody, her mind strong but her body overwhelmed by ALS, as the Doctor’s gave her the option of living the rest of her life with a ventilator, or choosing to remove it (which outside a miracle of God would mean certain death). I watched as Dody wrote down these words “God is in control” then asked “what will glorify Him?” The grace of God and the faith the Lord granted her was nothing short of remarkable. Dody asked the question facing death, which each of us should be asking everyday of our lives; and that is, “What will glorify Him?” When I first came to Trinity and mentioned having a book table, Dody was the one who started this ministry.  She had read many of the books that I was recommending for the table and believed they would be valuable for our members.  She was faithful to put great resources in the hands of our members.  She lived out her walk daily, but in that moment of receiving such devastating news, her theology began to spill out. She had accumulated such rich doctrine and it played out not only in her life, but also as she faced death.

Finally on March 4th, before her ventilator was removed, we had close to 40 people in her hospital room and as she watched and even wrote on her white board, we sang wonderful songs and read the Word of God. As I said, I have been near a dear child of God as they breathed their last breath, but I have never been with someone so aware and thinking with such clarity that in a few hours she would be worshipping with a new body in the presence of our Lord. What I noticed was even in this moment Dody was being used of God to build up the body of Christ, and specifically Trinity. I saw not only the love of Trinity, but I saw the depth of truth in their life as even unintentionally, the moment was not about Dody but about Christ! I watched as people from Trinity as young as 15 and as old as 70+ worshipped our Lord and encouraged a precious saint of God as she prepared to meet Jesus. I watched as we sang and read about heaven as Dody shook her head. It was a true “See you later” to a sweet saint of God.  I was told one of the final things she wrote was “Perfect Peace.” Only a child of God can experience that, but even more rich is that I saw our sweet sister live that out before sickness as well as during her illness. I love those moments in my life where I see Scripture in even a more vivid fashion, needless to say on March 4th around 3pm as we were worshipping our Lord with Dody, I saw Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” in one of the most vivid illustrations one could ever see it in. It was an honor to be her Pastor and a greater honor watch her life and death.  Below are Dody’s final written statements on facebook:

Hand written by Dody on 3/2/2012.... In case you have not heard, I wanted to write to you all and tell you that I love you all very much. I have been in a physical struggle since last June 2011. After much time in rehabilitation and testing I have been diagnosed with ALS. It has become apparent that God is preparing my path home to Him.
Be not afraid or discouraged I AM READY!!! My life is in the hands of our Sovereign Loving God who orders my steps. I rejoice in knowing with the blessed assurance that I will be home soon. I encourage you also to put your hope in Him!
My hours are few, soon my faith will be my eyes !!
Chris Tomlin "I Will Rise"

Hand written by Dody on 3/4/2012.. Don't let anyone say I lost my battle with ALS, There is no such thing as losing when your life is in the hand of a Sovereign loving God who knows the number of our days, before we are even born.
So whether its cancer, ALS or a car crash its simply His time for us to go....