Yesterday afternoon I finished reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my two younger kids. Everyone was in the room as I read the final chapters, when they sail to the utter East, the end of the world. There the three children from our world and the talking mouse Reepicheep come to a shimmering wall of water standing like a permanent wave. What lies on the other side no one knows; Reepicheep had always pictured it as the edge of a great waterfall. And at the bottom, Aslan’s country. They could actually glimpse Aslan’s country beyond the sunrise, where they saw a range of mountains of unbelievable height. But rather than being covered with ice and snow they were covered with forests and waterfalls as high up as they looked. And the mountains filled all the sky. Reepicheep took his tiny boat and sailed up and over the edge and was never seen in that world again.

I have always found this tantalizing glimpse into the next world thrilling. Doesn’t everyone long for heaven? The more extensive – but certainly not exhaustive – tour of the new heavens and new earth recounted by John in Revelation can be challenging to understand, but I find it even more exciting. As I have written recently, we have been reading those descriptions of the new heavens and the new earth together. They fill us with excitement and joy.

Did I write this already, that when I asked Peter what was most exciting about the vision of the future world in Revelation he said, “Seeing God. Eternal life. Being kings forever.” It does indeed say “they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Isaac added, “Yeah, and no more sadness or fear.” If that isn’t enough for you, it is described as a place of stunning beauty. Thinking about it now makes my soul hurt with longing. The New Jerusalem is that place, it is the people of God, it is the presence of God – those three things.

Our son Peter is sailing towards the edge. Soon he will be seeing God, entering eternal life, and reigning with the King. He will enter the place, join God’s people, and stand in the presence of God.

On Thursday morning Peter had a CT scan. That afternoon we met with the oncologist. When Peter is present the oncologist struggles to give bad news. That bad news, obviously, is this: Peter is going to die. Radiation has shrunk the main tumor in his chest, but already there are other tumors in his lymph nodes in his neck, in the lower part of his torso. There is even a tumor you can see and touch on the right side of his ribs.

We all cried, of course. Peter’s tears upset us. He has hardly cried through this five month journey with cancer. We asked and he said he was sad, but not scared.

After a few minutes Peter looked at his watch and saw that it was time to return to the Family House for their Easter party. That night Peter played games with friends, ate dinner, enjoyed a mango from the two boxes that another resident there brought specially for Peter. At bedtime Rebecca and I cried. Peter gave us each a hug and a smile.

On Friday morning I called the doctor for more information. How long? Weeks to months, he said. On the drive home we stopped at a home that provides end of life care for children. To be blunt, it is a place for kids to be as comfortable as possible when they die. We wanted to see if it would be an option for us. Peter kind of nodded as we left the well-kept five acres.

We told the news to our kids when we came home on Friday. Good Friday. We held each other and cried. After taking some time to absorb the news, we did normal things: finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ate dinner, watched a Nature video. We also did a Good Friday family worship time. The kids took turns reading about the suffering and death of Jesus, we sang and listened to several songs, some of which made the tears flow.

From Come Ye Sinners:

View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?

And Tis Midnight and on Olive’s Brow:

‘Tis midnight, and on Olive’s brow
The star is dimmed that lately shone;
‘Tis midnight in the garden now,
The suff’ring Savior prays alone.

‘Tis midnight, and from all removed,
The Savior wrestles lone with fears-
E’en that disciple whom He loved
Heeds not his Master’s grief and tears.

‘Tis midnight, and for other’s guilt
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet He that hath in anguish knelt
Is not forsaken by His God.

‘Tis midnight, and from ether-plains
Is borne the song that angels know
Unheard by mortals are the strains
That sweetly soothe the Savior’s woe.

I was more able to enter the suffering of the Savior because of our own suffering. We talked about the ways in which Jesus suffered: betrayal, mockery, beating, an unjust trial, crucifixion. But before any of that, he already told his disciples “I am overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” I pointed out that as much as Peter has suffered, and as much as he will suffer, he doesn’t have to carry the weight of the world’s sins. He doesn’t even have to carry his own sins. Jesus took them.
At some point on Friday the social worker from the hospital called Rebecca. Peter overheard Rebecca telling that we had visited the children’s home in the morning. “It was really nice,” she said. Peter, laying reading on the couch, suddenly gave a thumbs up and an enthusiastic nod.

“You liked it?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“So you want to go there?”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t want to stay there for very long.”

“So just at the end?”

“Yeah.”

Peter is peacefully making decision about where he will die.

On Saturday I woke up sobbing. I am crying now. Partly because of sadness, but then partly because we have such a wonderful child. We are amazed at how he is facing death.

 

After Reepicheep sails over the edge of the world, the children walk through the shallow water until eventually they meet Aslan on the land. He explains that two of them will never come to Narnia again. Instead they must come to know him in their own world, where he has a different name. And from our world the way into Aslan’s country is not over the edge of the sea, but over a river. “But do not fear that,” Aslan says, “for I am the great Bridge Builder.”

To enter the kingdom of God, a person must die and be raised again with a new body. Precisely what we celebrate today, the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the suffering Savior. Peter’s attitude is still “What is there to be afraid of?”

 

Our plans for the day: worship with a local church, eat, dance, laugh. And probably cry. I’m glad we have family in town to do it all with. And in the evening we will head back to San Francisco for one more meeting with the doctors tomorrow, and a little more radiation to keep the tumors under control for a time.

One more thing: I’m sure you will understand if we don’t respond to messages for a while. They are appreciated, so go ahead and send them, but we are occupied with other things for the time.

 

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Sailing Over the Edge

14 thoughts on “Sailing Over the Edge

  • April 16, 2017 at 8:10 am
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    Praying for each of your as you enter this final goodbye. Heaven will certainly be a place of rejoicing. Love you all.

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  • April 16, 2017 at 8:14 am
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    A beautiful word for this Resurrection Day. (My late husband–who sailed overy the edge leaving cancer behind–always chose to use Resurrection Day instead of Easter.) Peace and joy to all there no matter what day you read this. Lois Wilson

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  • April 16, 2017 at 8:33 am
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    This is very sad news from a human point of view. God must have missed this amazing soul, Peter, more than we can know! That was so beautiful, Zeke, and thank you for touching me so deeply through your tears … and mine. Love and prayers for Peter’s peaceful journey and transition into God’s waiting arms. <3
    Gary

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  • April 16, 2017 at 9:36 am
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    Zeke, Peter is such an amazing inspiration in how he is facing his suffering. I am so proud of you for being the man of God that you are, and raising you children to know and love Jesus. There is NOTHING more important in life. You were called for a reason. I hold you and your family close in prayer. I pray for wisdom for you and your wife in this time of transition for Peter’s finite time with you. You are not alone. Much love. – Phil

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  • April 16, 2017 at 9:49 am
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    Peter, thank you for writing from such a vulnerable place in life and in death. May you experience the presence of God in this season like never before. Peace be with you.

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    • April 16, 2017 at 9:50 am
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      I meant Zeke as I wrote Peter.

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  • April 16, 2017 at 10:04 am
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    Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Crying with you as a mother who mourns the loss of her own child, yet rejoices in the resurrection and reunion to come. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you as you walk this most difficult of roads.

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  • April 16, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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    I cried when I read this and several times afterwards. This is obviously not the news anyone wanted to hear. Your son is amazing in his faith. From your writings I see strength, perseverance, endurance, hope and love in his actions and words. You and Rebecca have shown those same qualities. Your ability to write during this hardship has been amazingly powerful. Your down to earth expression of Biblical truth, from a broken heart at a difficult time, have had a huge impact on me (and I am sure on others). I think the strength and faith you all have shown is compelling others to grow closer to God. I will continue to pray for you all.

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  • April 17, 2017 at 9:58 am
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    I’ve read this through several times with tears. Our son greeted us on Easter saying, “The world says, ‘I hope…’; the believer says, ‘I know!” Continued prayers from us and our church here in Lynden, WA as you walk through this valley. Our hearts break for you but rejoice in yours’ and Peter’s testimonies.
    Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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  • April 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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    Zeke and Rebecca, we Just want to say that we Love you and your family. We continue to pray for you all. God Peace and comfort to you all. with tears from Kenny,Merlin,Alex and Regalia

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  • April 17, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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    The Posey, Rivero, Jones Clan loves you so. We love you and we will all be there together soon… soon yet very soon.
    ~rachel

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  • April 18, 2017 at 7:35 am
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    To Peter: Warm greetings from all the children at the children rehabilitation center in Belgium Pulderbos. The pastor here asked the children to make a small drawing for Peter, because, we wanted to send them, and welcome Peter in Belgium. But we know God will receive Him now with much more abundant love,
    Warm and intens greetings from Bob, Ria, Xenia, and all the children

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  • April 21, 2017 at 9:58 am
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    The Netherlands, 21st April 2017

    Dear Family,

    From the southern part of The Netherlands we greet you all. As we live close to the border, we are not that far from the Antwerp International Church, of which we are members. Gert is of Dutch and Grace of South African/Indian origin.
    Like many others, we are with Peter and family in our thoughts and prayers now that your paths have been darkened (cf. Job 19:8b).

    We realize that words are not adequate enough for the situation you’ll find yourselves in. Yet, we pray that the Word will be a source of continuing comfort, strength and hope. From what we read and heard, this is already the case. In an almost paradoxical, but powerful way, this reality is even an encouragement and inspiration to us, and, we believe, AIPC at large.

    We also would like to let you’ll know that Peter is lifted up in services in other churches too. Specifically, those churches, attended by family members of ours, are in South Africa, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The Christian family knows no boundaries indeed.

    Whatever happens, life and death are in God’s Hand. Jesus has gone before us, for us. It is, in fact, the event of Resurrection – so very recently celebrated – that has paved the way in order to have a future. In this we are reminded of what is written in Rom. 14:9. May you’ll, and this is true for us as well, therefore, although not always easy, cling to this hope “as an anchor of the soul, a hope that is both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19).

    Gert and Grace Timmerman

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  • April 26, 2017 at 11:48 am
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    I just wanted to you know you are all in my thoughts and heavy prayers today. God Bless and comfort you all.

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