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May 14, 2008
Column #1,394
Advance for May 17, 2008
"In the Valley of the Shadow of Death"
by Mike McManus

A friend of mine, Stephen Judah, who is only 58, is dying. However, he learned - and is teaching "how to live when it is time to die." He created a "CaringBridge.org" website, used by 15 million people this year, and linked 50 friends and relatives.

What he writes is so inspirational that there've been 9,100 visits to the site. Clearly, his friends, moved by Steve's postings, tell other friends to go to CaringBridge.org/visit/SteveJudah.

On Monday he wrote:"As the baby-boomers age, in unprecedented numbers, people (you too) will be facing the same decisions I'm now facing. How does one live when it's time to die? What decisions do you make? As a family we have been greatly blessed through our open discussions of the transition from earth to eternity. We invite you to gain this blessing as well.

"Soon after we got news of the my cancer diagnosis, Sharon and I met with an attorney that specializes in estate matters and wills. We wrote a new will. Included in the document is something called a living will, where you declare whether or not you want to be put on life-support.

"In the early stage of my illness we progressed through radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery with the goal of a cure. But after six months it became clear that the cancer had advanced and a cure would not likely occur. I moved into what is called palliative care care for comfort, rather than for a cure. At this point I made three big decisions.

"First I decided to not accept further chemotherapy. The scenario would play out like this. Chemotherapy would likely make me feel miserable for three days, and then I would have an uncertain outcome. The chemotherapy might knock down the cancer cells for a few days, weeks, or even months or not. But barring a miraculous healing, the cancer will eventually rally and we would find ourselves back at the same place. So I decided to say no to further chemotherapy.

"Second I decided to use Hospice for my care... Hospice wants to provide the highest quality of life and comfort possible, at your own home. By contrast a hospital-based approach would no doubt take me in and out of the hospital and through procedure after procedure to extend my life an uncertain duration.
"Third I wanted to be like I imagine the Indians of old" who go "into a meditation, and then dying in a state of oneness with the Great Spirit. I anticipate dying in a state of oneness with God, surrounded by Light, and feeling Love."

As recently as March 26th my column on adultery quoted from Steve's landmark book, "Staying Together: When an Affair Pulls You Apart." As a psychologist in private practice he developed a way for couples to heal adulterous marriages in 87 percent of cases!

He also created a course called "Essential Disciplines," as a model for couples and even business employees to learn how "to have empowered and whole relationships." He hoped to spark a "small national movement" whose purpose is to draw "toward wholeness with God," in a practical implementation of what St. Paul called the "fruits of the spirit."

Toward that end, he created a version of Essential Disciplines for teenagers, which the Dibble Institute just decided to publish. "For that I am so grateful," he wrote because he could see that the central part of his work will have a legacy.

Yet, what may be more important are his thoughts approaching eternity: "As I've explored eternity, I've come to the conclusion that odds are you will miss me but I will not miss you. Eternity seems to be such a grand place that there will not be much room for sorrow in the form of missing things associated with earth.

"However, this side of eternity, while yet here on earth, at this very moment, I do miss and regret some anticipated experiences - such as walking my youngest daughter down the wedding aisle to give her away to the very blessed groom, watching my grandchildren grow up, or communing with Sharon (his wife) as we stroll on the beach and remember...

"We need more teaching about eternity and heaven. This CaringBridge website has provided that surprise opportunity. I simply agree with the powerful words of the Apostle Paul, `For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' God is a God of surprises - delightful and ceaseless surprises." In an interview he explained: "In the valley of the shadow of death, God shows up and makes Himself available in ways that are personal, tangible and unique."

As one friend wrote, "Steve you taught us how to live, but now surprisingly, you are teaching us how to die."

 
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