...

Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

It was discouraging, even depressing, for the family to see Alice so completely helpless—yet so fully conscious of everything. It was as though she was trapped, imprisoned, in her own body. She was there; we knew she was there—but only her eyes seemed to show it. It took longer and longer also each night to prepare her for sleep. She still needed her limbs adjusted exactly to her liking. But especially her head had to be in a proper angle: with the bed head turned up, and a pillow at the precise, proper place under her neck. This provided the best way of keeping air passages open so that she could breathe most easily through the night. She must have thought often that there was the real possibility that she would not live through the night.

Good Morning Alice: 

I think I can understand just a little more now, why when you keep the first part of the law, you will keep the second; and if you keep the second, you have kept the first. Do you understand what I mean? Actively thinking often during the day that God is God, and desiring to live my life in obedience to Him and not be selfish to do my own will, I do desire to love others, and live for them. I am not saying I succeeded in thinking God is my God every hour yesterday; I failed miserably. 

And yet, I did learn something; learn experientially that is. I’ve learned I can not harp at my children with the thought “God is God” still ringing in my mind. It is simply impossible to snap back at my husband’s wishes while I am consciously remembering, “Is the blessing of the Lord upon this?” 

Yet, human as we are, we are going to fail. Just as Peter started sinking when he took his eyes off Jesus, so as soon as we are no longer conscious of God in our lives, we are bound to sin. 

Knowing all this, I must still examine my attitude to others to be aware of the many ways I tend not to love others. (It’s hard to say “hate others”, and yet, what is it, if it isn’t love?) 

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 

Here again I’m afraid my own sinful self-love comes out. I have thought a lot about the right way to love myself as the text commands, and I am far from clear on it. I just don’t know. It seems like any way I could love myself would be pride. I do however know that wrong, sinful way of how I love myself. 

All too often I get upset at the way another Christian lives. (How can she be a child of God!) But then I must remember my own sins and say with Paul: “I am chief of sinners.” 

Do I love my children? Then I will strive to train them according to Scripture in the fear of the Lord, and not correct them sarcastically to make my own life easier. 

Do I love my husband? Then knowing what he desires of me, I will strive to do just that and not think (or say) he could easily do that himself. 

I guess above all else, the proper way to love another is to show them in my every word and action what God has done for me. 

Why is it, Alice, that the more I think of the proper way to love God and others, my own selfishness always gets in the way? Do you have that in your life? Does that plague every child of God? Do you find yourself thinking: “Huh, they don’t love me or they would be different to me—show me more love. (But do I show a tender love to them?) Yes, but they just don’t realize how difficult my life is. (But do I think of how difficult their life is?) Yes, but really they should try to understand and make things easier and more pleasant for me; they know what I want. (But do I ever stop and try to understand their needs and desires? Have I thought lately of their emotional and spiritual needs?) 

Let’s both remember again today that God is God—our God—a God Who demands that we love Him above all, and our neighbor as ourselves; and then when we are about to grumble, we will understand that we are not loving one another. Then like later today, when I’m in a hurry to get groceries {as I always am), if I’m tempted to grouch at my little one, I’ll know that it is not right, but a selfish way of blaming him for my not handling my time properly.

And later this evening when we visit with friends, if the conversation gets led in directions where it shouldn’t be (as it sometimes can}, I will forget my foolish pride and say that we are not glorifying God. 

Oh, Alice, Alice, we fall so far short! There is so much to examine and change!

It is with tears in my eyes that I write: if God takes you before me, rejoice! Rejoice in that perfect salvation that will be yours, and that you will no longer have to struggle against the ever constant sin and self-pride that is in us. 

Won’t it be glorious to serve God perfectly?!? 

In His love, Your friend! 

Please read

Ps. 29:11

We knew that the time would shortly come when decisions would have to be made about Alice’s hospitalization. With that was also the question of the use of a respirator—for ALS patients often are kept alive for months and years with that. We had a supply of oxygen at John’s house in case that was needed, and an aspirator to clear out her throat. But she refused to use all of this until the last few days of her life—when she conceded that the aspirator could give some relief. Thankfully, God made a final decision concerning hospitalization unnecessary.

Good Morning Alice: 

What a comforting verse today’s is—especially after we know how far short we fall from obeying God’s law for our lives. 

The Lord will give strength to His people; 

The Lord will bless His people with peace. 

Another beautiful promise God graciously gives to His people. 

Recognizing how far short we fall from obeying God’s law for our lives, we could become very depressed. 

But God is gracious! He doesn’t save His people and then leave them to sorrow and distress. But time and time again He gives us promises of strength and peace. 

Inner strength of soul and inner peace of heart and mind. What more can we ask for in this life? 

Read those promises often, Alice, and that inner strength of soul and peace of heart will rule over the present turmoil your body is going through and will carry you on in peace. 

With love, Your friend

Please read

I John 4:15-17

While living in Illinois, Alice had gone every week to Hazel to have her hair washed and set, and when necessary, cut. On March 12, Hazel made the trip to Grand Rapids to visit Alice—something so deeply appreciated. In fact, Hazel even gave Alice her last haircut. Alice enjoyed the visits from old friends, for this all helped to pass the weary hours of lying on that bed. These visits helped her also to cling to a more happy and pleasant past. But when each left, the sad reality of her present condition seemed to overwhelm her.

Good Morning, Alice: 

Did you read

I John 4:15-17

yesterday? Can you at all imagine that we may have boldness in the day of judgment? John’s epistles are as hard for me as some of David’s statements in the Psalms. Hard because the more I know myself, the more I know my sin and the less I see how God can live in me. 

And yet, I believe I am a child of God, and He tells me through His Word that He does dwell in me. And I may believe that my love will be made perfect—completely accomplished, when in the day of judgment I may have boldness—only because as He is, so am I in this world. Hard to understand? It certainly is—and is only by grace; only by grace. 

Can you imagine, Alice, how close John must have been to God to write this? Yes, I know he was inspired to write it, but God didn’t make him write words he didn’t believe. And hard as it seems—we may believe it too, because it’s all of Him!! 

With love, Your friend 

Please read

Phil. 1:19-20

The vaporizer had now become another important part of Alice’s night. Each evening, there was the ritual of cleaning and filling it with water. The moisture made breathing easier and made her more comfortable. She did not particularly pay attention to our activity, but we know that she appreciated anything which would make her nights a bit more bearable.

Good Morning Alice: 

What a beautiful morning! I guess it helps knowing that warmer weather is expected later in the week, but the snow is beautiful. 

It’s hard sometimes, when the apostles write of their experience as ministers of the gospel, to know just how those verses fit into our lives. 

We don’t preach Christ, and are placed in bonds as Paul was, and yet, living as true children of God, we will experience suffering and persecutions. And then, upheld by the prayers of fellow saints, and encouraged in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we hope. And then in that hope—that assured confidence, in life or in death, we are faithful to Christ. 

It must be our desire that others may see in us that we give Him all honor and glory.

Let us then, in this day and everyday—in living and dying, magnify Christ Jesus our Savior. 

In His love, Your friend 

Please read

Luke 12:22-34

Shortly before Alice passed away, a second nurse was obtained to help Alice and stay with her through the night: Jane. Since someone had to be with her all of the time now, it seemed wise to us to have a registered nurse at night. It was another reminder that her condition had worsened over the past weeks.

Good Morning Alice: 

Well, I did it again! I just wrote way too many verses for you to read. When I chose them yesterday, it just didn’t seem like you could have one of them on your mind without the rest of them explaining it. I’m just not ready to write anything to you yet when I don’t know how it applies to me. 

I think the two most important thoughts are: “O ye of little faith”, and, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” 

Read

Luke 12:22-34

again, Alice, thinking of yourself as you read them, as I will.

“See you” tomorrow, Love, Your friend