Life’s Long Endings

Joy and Sorrow in Ileen Fick’s Long-ending

In life’s long-endings we often experience a complexity of emotions.

  • We deeply grieve the dying process and the lengthy separation.
  • We celebrate the commencement of life in the special presence of the Lord

Maybe, most confusing for us, is we grieve and celebrate at the same time.

Most often we are emotionally monochromatic; we see and feel one emotion at a time.

A Christian’s long-ending requires us to experience two very different emotions at the same time.

  • Bittersweet
  • Happy sad

May I suggest there is much value in grieving death and life’s long endings.

  1. There is much value in grieving death’s victory over the human body. Ileen’s body has succumbed to the last enemy.  1 Corinthians 15:26

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

  1. There is much value in grieving the human body’s perishability, dishonor, weakness, naturality, and mortality. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

  1. There is much value in grieving a long-term separation. The greater the love, the more significant the grief.

For me, the question of Luke 19:41, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,” isn’t “why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?”  The question, for me is, “why wasn’t anyone else weeping over Jerusalem?”

Jesus has the greater love and therefore his grief is more significant.

At the same time, there is much value in celebrating life’s long endings and death.

  1. One celebration in life’s long endings flows from the truth that no one can say, “I didn’t have time to say goodbye.” Life’s long endings allow everyone to realign their lives around and make their loved one top priority.
  2. There is much value in celebrating Sister Fick’s total trust in Jesus’ birth, sinless life, death, and resurrection for her personal salvation. Romans 10:9-10

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.


  1. There is much value in celebrating Jesus’ process of bringing death under his feet. Sister Fick’s body is under the rule, authority and power of Jesus and is awaiting Resurrection Day! 1 Corinthians 15:23-26


23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.


  1. There is much value in celebrating, while Sister Fick’s body awaits Resurrection Day, she is away from the body and present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8


So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Sometimes life’s long-endings allow our contrasting emotions to become conflicting emotions.

  • I shouldn’t be grieving! She is in a much better place.  But godly grief is good.
  • I shouldn’t be celebrating! She has died.  But godly celebration is good.

Sergei Losifovitch was a Russian Orthodox writer, born in 1900. Spending much of his adult life in Soviet prison camps, he was a man acquainted with grief. Once he came to visit a nun with whom he was close. As he entered the house, two nuns fetched an empty coffin from the attic. The woman’s death was imminent. Sergei walked into her room, and she breathed her last.

After reading the prayers over her body, he said, “We stood silently, not experiencing sorrow, for when a holy heart stops beating it is a sacrament, not a sorrow.”

Stage 1: No Impairment

During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident.

Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by physicians or loved ones.

Stage 3: Mild Decline

At this stage, the friends and family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. Performance on memory and cognitive tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function.

Patients in stage 3 will have difficulty in many areas including:

  • finding the right word during conversations
  • remembering names of new acquaintances
  • planning and organizing

People with stage three Alzheimer’s may also frequently lose personal possessions, including valuables.


Stage 4: Moderate Decline

In stage four of Alzheimer’s disease clear cut symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are apparent. Patients with stage four Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Have difficulty with simple arithmetic
  • May forget details about their life histories
  • Have poor short term memory (may not recall what they ate for breakfast, for example)
  • Inability to manage finance and pay bills

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline

During the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, patients begin to need help with many day to day activities. People in stage five of the disease may experience:

  • Significant confusion
  • Inability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number
  • Difficulty dressing appropriately

On the other hand, patients in stage five maintain a modicum of functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.


Stage 6: Severe Decline

Patients with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s disease need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings
  • Major personality changes and potential behavior problems
  • The need for assistance with activities of daily living such as toileting and bathing
  • Inability to recognize faces except closest friends and relatives
  • Inability to remember most details of personal history
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Wandering

Stages 7: Very Severe Decline

Stage seven is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal illness, patients in stage seven are nearing death. In stage seven of the disease, patients lose ability to respond to their environment or communicate. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. In the final stages of the illness, patients may lose their ability to swallow.