The death of my wife, Dec. 26, 1991, marked the beginning of a long and somewhat difficult trail and one that I could have traversed better, but none the less, one in which I received God’s help despite shortcomings of my own.
I learned some alarming things about the way medicine was being practiced by the early 90s, respect for life was starting to flag. After checking her into the hospital, I soon realized someone would need to be in her room at all times: nurses almost never checked in on her, as she passed back and forth from consciousness to coma. I think she had been already marked as a lost cause.
The second day there she quit breathing and turned purple and I leapt up and hit the buzzer. A team of nurses and doctors revived her, and afterwards stood around talking. One said, “Wasn’t that a waste of time? Would she have wanted that?” I snapped out of my daze, got up out my chair and headed for him, but a young and alert female nurse jumped between us and he looked at me and quickly exited the room. That work on the doctor’s part allowed several of her closest relatives, including her sons to speak with her before she died. Was it not worth it?
Things didn’t get better though. Doctors refused to operate on her and I was at a loss for what to do. Finally an older doctor walked into the room with an anxious look on his face and introduced himself. He looked at me for a moment, his eyes pleading with mine, and then asked permission to operate. ” Can I get aggressive, Mr. Hodges, can I fight to save her? She may be a vegetable,” he cautioned. “Doctor, I said, my first job as a husband is to protect her life, we would be glad to take her home, even as a vegetable.” A look of relief swept his face and he left the room. Three hours later he returned and the grief on his face told the story. “There was nothing I could do,” he muttered, and slowly walked down the hall. To this day I wish I had written down his name. There, I thought, was a fighter. There was someone who respected life, and in this particular case, the life of my wife.
Nothing but divine intervention would do now; and I pled but providence was a stone wall. By this time I was staying all night and going home to the kids in the morning. Tired and frustrated one morning in the hospital I prayed, “Lord, I am tired, this staying out all night can’t be helping the kids.” Almost immediately the Lord, not audibly but just as clearly as if so, said, “You stay here all night, every night until I come for my servant, is that clear?” I responded, “But Lord what if she dies in the day time?” He assured me she wouldn’t.
Three days later she died in the early morning as I stared death in the face and shut her eyes. A nurse in the room gave me a dirty look as she left, apparently because I had shown no emotion. In the next three months I cried every time I hit the shower. Though no one ever saw me cry. And I should add that despite my pain, and anger, I could feel the Lord’s hand on my back, at times almost tangible.
So Christmas is a time of mixed blessing for me, bitter as well as sweet. On the one hand I had to bury a good wife and mother and take up the raising of her kids. On the other hand the little babe in the manger, in whom God became man, the most powerful becoming the least powerful among humans, defenseless and in a stall under the least of circumstances, is a reminder. The Creator took on creation and death itself to break the back of entropy, and ultimately deliver us from our old enemy, Death.
So that we can now look on his birth and know that he has served papers on death, and death is no longer master over us or our loved ones. In Him we can say, Death, where is your victory? We can look at the grave and say, Grave, where is your sting? In Christ, death is really a fraud, and this life a short but important passage way. There are a whole lot of things people think are important; money, recognition, pleasure. But maybe they haven’t looked death in the face close enough yet. There may a lot more to the babe in the manger than they realize.