I watched her eat pureed food and she ate well as the caregiver fed her. Her dosage of pain medication had been ramped up to the highest level only days before and she had been sleeping almost 24/7. I had wondered if I would ever have another conversation with again … or another smile. God gave one more sweet time together after supper on November 30. What sweet smiles she gave me! Precious! I’m weeping as I write about this right now … so grateful for what God gave us that night. When I told her that I love her more than ever before, she smiled. I forget how many times I told her … several times. I told her that I thank God for giving her to me 42+ years ago. Oh, she smiled so warmly. So peaceful, so serene … I treasure those moments in my memory. Prayed with her … quoted some Bible verses to her … ran my fingers through her hair … kissed her. So special!
The nurse came in to give her pain medication … heavy duty stuff … soon Lynne’s eyes closed … sleep. Somehow I knew that it was the last time that we would communicate like this.
Coming to visit her after church on December 1 she was still asleep. But, neither the nurse nor the caregivers or I realized that she was shutting down.
Leaving the YMCA on December 2 my nephew, Brian, asked if he could go with me. We found Lynne struggling to breathe, battling for her life. Her vital signs showed that she did not have much more time. The nurse told me that it might take two hours or it might take two days, but, she thought that Lynne would pass that night. It took three days.
Looking back on it I’m not surprised that it took three days because Lynne had fought MS for 20 years and two months. What a trooper!
Uh-oh!! Danger! Problem! Lynne could no longer swallow. It was not possible to give her pain medicine in tablet form. She needed morphine. We simply could not get in contact with her doctor because of computer problems. The doctor covering for her was reluctant to prescribe a narcotic because Lynne was not his patient. The problem with today’s “pill heads” [illicit drugs] hurts those who desperately need medicine. I did not waste time with being upset with the doctor … I asked the nurse to contact Hospice who could provide Lynne with what she desperately needed. I did not want to go through an entire night with Lynne having no medication suffering horrific pain.
The nurse looked me dead in the eye as she said, “It will take an act of God to do this! It’s 7:05 PM and Hospice would have to come to do an assessment and their pharmacy closes at 9:00 PM!” I kindly asked her to contact Hospice and she quickly left Lynne’s room to get started. I prayed [silently] asking God to intervene. At 8:00 PM the nurse from Hospice showed up … she just happens to live across the road from Greystone. At 8:45 PM or so the Wellness Manager at Greystone [a believer] came back with all of the medicine that Lynne needed … incredible! Smiling, I asked the nurse if this was an act of God. Stunned, but, very happy, she affirmed that it was indeed an act of God. [How amazing that Lynne’s situation has made an impact on so many people’s lives such as this young nurse.]
Thank God … Lynne had the morphine she desperately needed as well as the medication for her lungs as they were almost full of liquid. At least, she could rest … breathe … and have no pain as we waited for her to pass. God is so merciful and full of compassion.
Lynne’s sister, Tricia, spent the night with Lynne and me. We sang songs to Lynne. I read the Bible to her and I talked to her. The sun came up and Lynne was still with us. Several friends and family members came to visit during the day. It gave me time to race to the house to get my phone charger and laptop. Otherwise, I stayed at Lynne’s side. This had to be the most difficult time of her life and I wanted to be with her to help her through this.
Night two found me alone with Lynne, but, this was good. I sang for almost four hours. At first I could hardly get through the songs that spoke of heaven, but, those tears passed as I found encouragement from those songs. Seems to me that I was singing as much for me as much for me as I was for Lynne. I went through Psalms searching each chapter for verses that helped us and I became quite passionate about some of these verses. In fact, I stood up and talked about these verses just as though I was giving a sermon … no less than five times … five sermons to an audience of one. Quite animated and dynamic I gave Lynne my best, no, God’s best. Then, day three dawned.
More visitors came which gave me time to move to the hallway to start planning the funeral details as they spent time sitting with Lynne. When I saw that her room was empty I moved to her side to encourage her that I was close by.
The third night was hard as I had only grabbed 30 to 45 minutes of sleep the previous two nights. My niece, Kayla, had come in from Rochester, NY, to stay with us. I was able to get around four hours of restless sleep as I would wake up each time caregivers or the nurse would come in to check on Lynne or give her medicine. But, it helped.
The sun rose on the fourth day of the vigil and I was encouraged by the brightness of the sunrise. Changing my tactics I did not sing to Lynne that morning nor did I read to her. Every hour or so I told her that I’m in the room with her giving her space … time to herself and to her God. I took a phone call from a friend who told me that when God is ready He will take her home. As I finished the phone call I saw Lynne’s eyes roll back in her head. It was time.
The caregivers and the nurse were in the room with Kayla and me. We gathered around Lynne as I encouraged her to “go home”, to go be with the Lord. The nurse gave me the knowing look that Lynne had passed. I put my ear to her chest … nothing … her heart had stopped. Looking at the clock we confirmed that she had departed at 10:35 AM on December 5, 2013. I startled everyone in the room as I shot my arm into the air and exclaimed “Praise the Lord!” Then, I shouted “Hallelujah”!! Looking at my niece I told her, “She’s with the Lord!” I was SO happy for Lynne. SO HAPPY!
Then, I looked at her lifeless form lying in the bed … the blood had drained from her face … it hit me hard as I thought “She’s gone. She’s not here.” Sad for a second, I praised the Lord again … no more suffering … no more pain … she’s in Heaven. What a special feeling.
Years ago Lynne must have sensed that she would pass before me as she requested that her memorial service would be joyful, positive with songs of praise. Music was her life and she knew what she wanted … a Celebration Service. And, so it was!
Calling upon singers from several churches to make a mass choir we had a rehearsal during the visitation time before the celebration service … in front of the people. The choir went back to their seats singing “Amen” acapella … that was the signal that the only way that this service would resemble a funeral is that there was a casket situated in front of the pulpit. We had about 30 minutes left before the beginning of the service, so, I started pointing out certain people who had been a blessing to Lynne and me. Graduates from our school in Hungary from Liberia, Kenya, Romania and the United States … certain supporters who had made our mission possible over the years … several pastors … family members … precious friends … it was so special, so different, so right … the celebration was underway.
The clock showed 1:55 PM, so, I signaled for the funeral directors to come to the front to escort the family to the vestibule. Taking my last glimpse of Lynne’s beautiful face I walked with my mother as Lynne’s family followed. That was tough and my eyes were rimmed with tears. But, God gave me strength.
We returned after the casket had been closed and I took my place at the pulpit. Yes, as my friends in West Virginia say, I “preached” my wife’s funeral. No, let’s call it a celebration.
The obituary … no way … I called it a Tribute to Lynne Murphy and I shared how God had used her life on two continents giving praise to Him. That was unique … just how Lynne wanted it.
The choral music … electric, spiritual … they walked to the choir loft singing “Amen”. The congregation was alert taking it all in. What a privilege for me to direct the choir and they sang so well. Returning to their seats they sang it again … “Amen”. The service went viral as people took pictures to post online … text messages … Twitter … Facebook. Yes, it’s a different world these days.
In the message I encouraged everyone to “Finish Well.” Yes, I am taking the message to heart for myself. Lynne finished well despite her terrible suffering … 29 months at Greystone … horrific physical pain much of that time. But, she finished well with a smile for those who came to see her impacting so many people … from her bed of suffering. God was magnified through all of this.
Several people had prayed for good weather as an ice storm was in the forecast. The ice storm happened, but, not in Beckley, WV. God made it pass around us. I kid you not. Would you believe I prayed for sunshine? The Weather Channel showed a thick blanket of clouds and bad weather from Texas to New Hampshire. God lit up the church as we listened to a song that Lynne wanted to be played after the message, “If You Could See My Now.” During the key words in the song, “if you could see me now walking on streets of gold”, the sunshine poured through the church windows … God smiling His approval on the life of Lynne Murphy. People are still talking about what happened. It was stunning.
Time for the pallbearers to serve by attending to the casket after everyone had exited the church … all of them pastors and a church leader from the host church.
The processional to the cemetery was fitting for royalty as someone said. The chaplain of the West Virginia State Police organized State Police cars, the Sherriff’s Department and the City of Beckley Police to stop all traffic for the hearse and cars spread out more than one mile long. At one busy intersection Beckley Firefighters [my firefighter nephew was so proud of his buddies] stood at attention holding the traffic for us. The only thing missing was six motorcycles in front.
One of my friends commented, “Lynne Murphy always did things with such flair. Looks like God pulled out all of the stops to honor Lynne.”
This special treatment is simply not done in this day and time. But, this is what God wanted.
Oh, did I mention that it was rush hour traffic?
Dr. Reggie Weems from Johnson City, Tennessee, gave one of the best messages I have ever heard at a Graveside Ceremony. Afterwards, I stood to sing the chorus of “I’ll Meet You in the Morning” … “just inside the Eastern Gate over there.” Misty eyes on each face. Then, I changed the mood by announcing that ladies from four churches have prepared a scrumptious meal for us at a nearby church … inviting all … with a loud, “I’m hungry, let’s go eat!” There was warm laughter and we had a great time of fellowship.
The Celebration Service was one of a kind, but, what God had for Lynne in Heaven far surpassed what we had … The Celestial Celebration Service. Think about it!
Before Lynne passed I told her that her name will be remembered. The Lynne Murphy Memorial Fund for Needy Campers & Camp Promotion has been created. If you would like to make a special donation to honor Lynne and her love for children please do so today. This gift will impact the lives of needy youth in Montenegro and Romania.
What’s next for me? The work in Europe continues. Planning sessions with my staff were held during the days before the Celebration Service. Stay tuned . . .