Death and Taxes. Two things that are inevitable in this life. Unfortunately, death is no respecter of persons. It happens to both the rich and poor, the educated and the illiterate. It affects those who have lived a long and satisfying life, as well as those who have only just begun to reach their potential. Regardless of the circumstances, we’re never fully prepared to face the fleeting mortality of those nearest to our hearts.
For some, there is the promise of an eternal hope, laid up for us in heaven, that offers consolation and comfort, and freedom from the trappings of a fallen world.
But still, there is sorrow and a deep sense of loss.
Such is the case with our family just recently. My wife’s younger sister, Julie, died of an apparent heart attack and complications from diabetes. Her health had been slowly deteriorating for the past several years. She had lost virtually all of her vision, and her kidney functions failed, requiring dialysis several times a week.
Shortly after being airlifted to a hospital in Stockton, CA, her blood sugar levels improved and her vital signs began to strengthen, but she wasn’t conscious. Her parents and husband waited patiently into the early morning hours, hoping that she might resurface from her coma. The doctors felt that she was stable, and suggested they head home to get some rest.
Just as they were taking the final exit off the highway, the hospital called. Julie had stopped breathing. They doubted that she’d survive more than a few hours.
When they arrived back at the hospital, Julie was on life support. There was no brain activity. After running several additional tests, her husband decided to have the life support removed. An hour later, her heart stopped beating, and she was gone.
We had an intimate family gathering graveside. Our oldest son, Ben, played guitar and led us in songs of hope, encouragement, and praise. The following day, a large memorial service was held at the church where Julie and her family had attended while growing up. It was the same church where I had met her sister and my wife, Janice. Julie was in high school back then, and I was one of the volunteer youth staff. She had been telling Janice (who was attending her first year of college down in Southern California) all about this really cute guy on youth staff that she just had to meet. Janice was reluctant, but Julie was more resolute and insistent. So we met during Sunday School while I was leading worship. It was truly love at first sight, And after nearly 25 years of marriage, the sight of her still makes my heart skip a beat.
My wife’s family is very close-knit. They aren’t the most ‘outwardly’ affectionate, but their love and support for each other is undying and unconditional. Sitting around the table on Sunday after church, as we shared a meal together, I was reminded once again of how very blessed and fortunate I am to be a part of such a loyal and loving group.
Julie’s husband, Dave, cracked a joke and had us all bent over in stitches. He has always had a talent for tickling our funny bones.
There will naturally be moments of sadness and mourning in the days ahead as we recall how special Julie was, and how her life touched each one of ours. But there is great healing in the close bond that we all share together, both as a family, and through a deep, abiding faith we have in common.
In Loving Memory of Julie Ann Diehl
June 12, 1964 to March 30, 2008