In the last few days, I had a phone conversation with a Christian sister, D (pseudonym), from my hometown in Chongqing, who mentioned that her ex-husband, Z, had just passed away about ten days ago. In the last three months up until his death, she took care of him in the nursing home where he lived. She, along with the church pastor and other members, provided him with hospice care and led him to the Lord.
She recounted the scene of Z's passing and how he called out her name and that of their two sons with determination. He expressed deep regret for falling in love with a younger woman a few years ago and betraying his wife and family. He repeatedly said, "My wife, I am sorry for what I did!"
D invited another Christian sister, C, from the church, to pray the sinner's prayer with Z. He confessed his sins and repented before God. She also mentioned that because God is a forgiving and gracious savior, her husband passed away with a peaceful heart. The following day, she opened the coffin and saw him, looking peaceful like a sleeping child.
Now seeing D in good spirits and peace brings a stark contrast to last summer, when I first met her while in Chongqing with my mother, where she looked so sad and bitter. She was in her seventies and quite frail. Even in summer, her back was cold and damp; she had to wear a vest or risk catching a cold from the slightest breeze.
D lives very close to my mother, who is nearly eighty, but when compared to her, D looks even older. Not only is D caring, but she is also candid, sincere, and talkative. We often exercise together in the morning, go shopping in the afternoon, and sometimes have meals, pray, and read the Bible together.
She talked about her life experiences: She got married to her ex-husband while in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and raised two sons. After retiring, they returned to their hometown of Chongqing to spend their elderly years together. However, her husband Z, grew disdainful of her as she aged; he started seeing a younger woman outside and did not return home. After their divorce, he moved into a nursing home.
Due to the cold climate in Xinjiang, living conditions were very basic. She had many chronic illnesses, and her husband did not care about her; they often quarreled and even got into fights. However, as they approached old age, her husband's betrayal was the last straw that broke her physically and mentally. She suffered from insomnia and nightmares every day.
During the time we spent together, I shared my personal testimonies and those of those around me who had received healing, and I encouraged her to forgive her ex-husband. After praying together many times, she gradually found healing and was set free.
Because of the forgiveness, tolerance, and love that Z showed her ex-husband in his final moments, she set an example for her sons and grandchildren and preached the gospel to him. Today, she confidently continues to share the gospel with her children, boldly declaring in the name of Jesus Christ: "This household and this family serve the Lord; the salvation of one is a blessing to the entire family, even for generations to come."
She prays every day for God to choose her grandchildren, for her eldest son's recent illness, for the success of her second son's business, for her grandchildren's academic success, and for peace in her family.
Sister D has shared this testimony with many elderly people, evangelizing to them. For example, my stepfather, who is nearly ninety years old, said when he took me to the train station last year that his only wish now is to not be afflicted with illness at the end of his life but to be able to pass away peacefully and quietly. This testimony gave him hope.
After listening to the testimonies of D and Z, I began to reflect on the importance of dying in Christ and end-of-life care.
When I was younger, I lost three relatives, spanning three generations: my grandfather, father, and younger sister. At that time, I was not a Christian and was unusually terrified about death. I saw the physical and mental torment that illness brought to the elderly and felt physically and mentally exhausted from long-term caregiving. I searched everywhere for information on hospice care facilities but found no help.
Nowadays, churches have better conditions, providing systematic end-of-life care counseling and training. On one hand, pastors and fellow workers in the church provide counseling for those nearing the end of their lives. On the other hand, church members intercede in prayer, lifting up the physical well-being of the caregivers and allowing them to quickly find restoration from the fatigue of tending to the physical and emotional needs of those at the end of their lives. Finally, through providing end-of-life care counseling, countless people are reached with the gospel.
In recent years, I have also aged and have come across many similar stories around me.
In Aba Prefecture, there is a grandmother in her eighties who received end-of-life care counseling from the church for a long time and timely comfort and companionship from the church members. Not only was her psychological fear alleviated, but in the final moments of her life, she waved to everyone and said, "See you in heaven!"
There is also a sister in her seventies who was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her daughter reached out to the church pastors, co-workers, and members for prayer and end-of-life care counseling. As a result, the sister sang the hymn "Psalm 23" with contentment in her heart, and angels welcomed her to heaven.
In the church, there is an elderly person almost eighty years old who, despite having multiple illnesses, after receiving end-of-life care counseling from the church, had fewer heart struggles and peacefully passed away like a sleeping infant.
(This is a guest/freelance article written by a Christian from Sichuan Province.)
-Translated by Nonye Nancy