This past Friday morning, my hubby and I went to see our dear Mrs. Bonnie. She was laying in a nursing home bed where she had to live because of her dementia. She was surrounded by her children and grandchildren and she was dying. I have never witnessed someone who was that close to death and so it was a new experience for me. A flood of memories and emotions flooded over me as I sat there, rubbing her feet and taking in the scene that was before my eyes.
I remember not long after we moved here to Ohio, she invited me to her home for a tea party. I was in her home many times after this but this first time I was nervous because I was a new pastor’s wife and wanted to make a good impression. When I got there, she and her two daughters (who are also members of our church) had on big tea party hats and gloves. Not just any gloves…latex gloves. They said they couldn’t find real tea party gloves so that would have to do. I asked if we were to have tea or if I was going to have an examination to which we all laughed, I was then given my own hat and gloves and our sweet relationship started that involved many more giggles and memories.
We developed a winter tradition of going Christmas shopping together – she, her girls and I. She did not drive because she relinquished her license to her children when she felt she was too old to drive safely. However, that day, I was driving and she was sitting up in front with me. No matter what I did, she had instructions for me. “Park there”, “Pull in straighter”, “That light just turned green so go”, and on and on. Finally, I said “Bonnie! If you say one more thing, I am going to pull over and you are going to drive!” She said, “I will hush because I am not driving this thing!” and we all had a great laugh.
There are so many memories of her. She adopted us into her family, as have her children, and affectionately called my hubby and I her grandchildren. She loved us and our children like we were her own. Just two weeks ago, we visited her at the nursing home and the children and I sang to her. She kissed on them and let them hold her baby doll. She still loved them and never stopped smiling the whole time they sang. She just had her 90th birthday and we made her a card wishing our “grandma” a very happy day.
Bonnie was one of the spunkiest women I have ever met – much to the dismay of her children at times. She made beautiful quilts and loved to show them to you and tell you about them. She survived the death of her husband and two of her sons. She lived alone until just a couple of years ago. She was faithful to every single service our church had until she went into the nursing home. She was quite a woman.
As I watched her laying there, struggling so hard for every single breath, her body racked in fever, I was very, very sad. I did not like seeing this strong woman in this condition. My heart ached to breathe for her, to comfort her, to help her in this shadow of death she was entering. I watched her children wiping her brow, kissing her forehead, stroking her hair and telling her how much they loved her. I thought how blessed she was to have children that loved her like that. I also thought what a good mother she must have been to earn that kind of love and devotion. We prayed with her and for her – that Jesus would come and take her away peacefully and we talked to her and encouraged her that it was okay to go.
I thought about this portion of Scripture in I Corinthians 15:54 – “O death, where is thy sting?…” and felt that sting in my heart as I watched her suffering. Death is awful. It is haunting. It is scary. It is sad. It is heart-wrenching. Those thoughts were stinging my heart and my eyes as I choked back the tears. I hate death. I hate suffering. I hate grief. Oh, what a sting!
Then, I thought about the sermon my husband just preached Wednesday evening. He was preaching on Ephesians 4:8 and was talking about Jesus leading the captivity captive. He grabbed my boys as an illustration and said that my Isaiah was a man and my Caleb was Death. Death (Caleb) had his arms all around man (Isaiah). Jimmy said that death is the final enemy. It has man and man cannot escape it. Then Jimmy (who was Jesus) came and ripped “Death” off of “man” and led him away as Jesus had Death now bound unable to escape. It was a beautiful picture of how Jesus conquered death, our final enemy. Oh, what a Savior!
As I watched Bonnie dying in her final hours on this earth, as death was closing in on her to hold her captive, my heart suddenly rejoiced! Bonnie is a Christian. Bonnie is a child of God. Bonnie belongs to Jesus. Death would not win! At about 8:30 Friday evening, when Bonnie was taking her final breath, death was rejoicing! Death thought it had the victory. But something else was happening. Bonnie was not alone in the shadows death was casting upon her. Jesus came. He grabbed death in His embrace and proclaimed victory in the life of His child. “No death. This one is not yours. She is mine!” Bonnie would not be a participant of death but rather share a victory over death because of Jesus Christ. And the One Who gained this victory for her, was there to lead her to her eternal reward. Death lost its sting! The life of our Mrs. Bonnie did not end in death. It ended in victory. Oh, what a story!
And this story is repeated over and over in the lives of believers all over the earth who have already left us. It is also repeated in the lives of unbelievers who will not accept Jesus Christ but it does not have a happy ending. In their lives, death does have the final victory and the sting is eternal. I am so thankful that Bonnie accepted Jesus into her life and trusted Him as her personal Savior – securing her eternity through His own death on the cross. And I am so thankful that Jesus conquered Death and raised victoriously from the dead securing for us our own resurrection into life eternal! Oh, what security!
Mrs. Bonnie, we will see you again and join you in praising the One who made this all possible! Oh, what a celebration!
6 thoughts on “Death’s Sting – my tribute to Mrs. Bonita McAfee”
What a neat story and tribute to your friend and to our Savior. It was very touching.
Alicia, I too have experienced this same feeling . I watched as my Dad lay dying with cancer. The same feelings came over me as I watched. I was heartbroken but I was sure Dad was in heaven with Jesus. I love your blog, thank you for sweet memories. Phyllis Shelton
Love you Mrs. Phyllis and sure loved your sweet Daddy. What a reunion we will all have someday!
My job exposes me to death’s sting often, sometimes more then once a week, sometimes more then once in a day. I think of death’s sting as I do chest compressions on someone. Death has no preference, it will claim someone no matter their age, no matter their gender, race or religion. I am not always priviledged to whether death or the Lord will have the victory with that person, sometimes their is peace, most times just numbness and at all times grief. Death’s wail heard utered from the hearts of families left behind can be as overwhelming for those listening as it is for those wailing.
The only real peace comes from knowing Jesus Christ, and the best gift to leave your family is the knowledge that you have accepted Christ as Saviour. Death will sting, but God will get the victory!
Thank you for writing this Suzie. You are so right!!