One month ago today, I awoke from a solid, uninterrupted, six hours of straight-through sleep-which almost NEVER happened.
One month ago today, I awoke to the quiet hum of a non-invasive ventilator and no other sound was heard.
No indication of discomfort in any way.
This was not the norm.
One month ago today, I awoke to a man fully conscious, definitely dying and in complete comfort with zero pain.
I have no natural explanation for this. Only supernatural.
One month ago today, we wheeled him from the hospital bed and into his favorite spot by the kitchen window.
One month ago today, the Lord had already gone before us, clearing our schedules and placing our children in the hands of others who love them almost as much as we do. He then sent a blanket of snowfall to hem us inside our home, thus ensuring a quiet and undisturbed Saturday morning.
Chad prayed often for a quiet and peaceful death at home.
The place where he came face-to-face with God many times this side of eternity.
One month ago today, the ringing of phones stopped and so did the wringing of hands.
One month ago today, our tired hands embraced his tired hands as the door to his cell flew open, allowing Chad access to the land of eternal freedom.
The land of eternal peace.
The land where he could finally reside eternally with his rescuer.
One month ago today, we watched Chad inhale one last breath.
A breath that contained all the polluted elements of this sin-sick world.
Then, we marveled.
We marveled as he exhaled that sin-sick smog, laced thick with the familiar stench of disease and death, into a new atmosphere.
A heavenly atmosphere.
An atmosphere perfectly cleansed by the one and only purifier who is strong enough to remove every disgusting pollutant containing any trace element of this sin-sick world.
One month ago today, we sat sad while Chad stood astounded!
One month ago today, we waded in tears while Chad waded through the river of life!
One month ago today, we closed his eyelids while God opened Chad’s eyes!
One month ago today, A-L-S instantly became S-L-A, SO LONG AFFLICITION, as GOD ALMIGHTY took Chad’s light and momentary affliction and turned it into his eternal weight of glory! (II Corinthians 4:17)
Below are the words spoken during his eulogy.
Chad’s journey home deserves to be shared as our hearts seek the path that led him there…
“Well here we are…at the end of this point in the journey. I stand before you today, at the end of the toughest road I have ever faced and one that has left me feeble and stronger in many ways. I don’t stand before you proud or feeling accomplished. I stand humbled, weak and honestly weary. I stand here with one goal in mind and that is to honor the life and death of Chad Austin Jude, the man I call my husband.
There really are no adequate words to describe what Chad endured. There are no adequate words to describe what any ALS patient endures. I could easily stand here and skip over the realities he was forced to accept, but for us to really appreciate and truly honor Chad in his death, we must acknowledge the road that led him there.
For three years I’ve watched this man’s body revert back to an infant state. I’ve watched helpless as every physical ability he possessed was slowly stripped and taken from him one-by-one. If you knew Chad you knew he was a talker. I’m fairly certain he was the first to get his name written on the board in Kindergarten. The inviting sound of his laugh and his natural sense of humor left us all in stitches and his beautiful smile captured the gaze of all who crossed his path. Chad spoke in only one octave and that was loud and many times I wondered if he came with a remote control I could never seem to find. Never a soul was born that could top his soothing bass vocals and his deep, sultry voice charmed many-of which I was one. His voice was the first to go. I watched as the mechanics of his oral and vocal structures shut down, leaving him no longer able to verbally communicate with anyone. I then watched the masculine hands that once held my children and the strong legs that carried us all, slowly wither and draw up. I remember the day I found Chad beating the sides of his wheel chair, crying and begging to get out. I remember seeing the spirit of man broken little by little. Images like these are forever burned into my memory and many times I had to turn away because the sight became too much to bare. This disease process is horrendous and watching the body slowly imprison itself is beyond comprehension.
Toward the end of Chad’s life, I became drawn to books written by prisoners of war. Not because we had ever stepped foot inside a foreign prison but because these stories of perseverance and resolve underneath horrendous circumstances, gave us what we needed to make it through our final push and though the details were much different, they were also much in the same.
I tell you these things not to deepen your sadness but to give you a greater appreciation for this man lying here before you today. I give you only small doses – enough that your hearts may consider this life that was slowly taken piece-by-piece. So that maybe a small piece of this life could be given to each one of you. Yes, through the stripping, Chad’s heart was broken into a million pieces but God taught Chad what to do with the broken pieces of his heart – he taught him to give them away so that each beautifully broken piece, could be given to each one of you.
Today, I ask you to take your piece of Chad’s heart and consider the seat your sitting in. I urge you to consider your connection to Chad’s story and what it has brought to you-or should I say, what it has brought you too? Has it brought you to question? To ask the infamous “Why”? Of course it has brought us all to tears but has it brought you to anger? To bitterness? To doubt? I can tell you without hesitation that if Chad could speak with you today, he would urge you to carefully ponder your piece and consider your orchestration in all of this-however large or small. If Chad were here today, he would submit to you that our always sovereign, wise, patient and good father, intentionally aligned your path to cross with his in some way. Some way that was pivotally used to point you past Chad’s disease and directly to Christ. Only two months ago, I asked him this simple question, “If you could go back and change any of this, would you?” His response riveted me to the core. ” No! Never!”, he said. “God’s will is always perfect and I am where I need to be.”
We can question and we can cry but let not one of us leave here today saying “what a waste”. No! Chad’s pain will never be wasted and his life was intentionally orchestrated-even unto his death.
Yes, for three years I’ve seen the unthinkable but I’ve also seen the miraculous. I’ve seen the very hand of God strand together communities made up of countless people, who by combining their time and resources, literally pulled our drowning heads above water. I remember bills that were paid when there was no money to pay them. I remember groceries that were bought when the cabinets were empty and dinners that were delivered when there was little time to cook. I remember countless people offering their precious time to help care for my children when Chad’s care needs became too demanding. Once, when my body crashed due to exhaustion, many of you banded together to care for Chad and the children until I had physically recovered. For three years, I’ve seen folks, fix our cars, fix our house, mow our grass, and faithfully check in, in a multitude of ways. Chad and I literally experienced the body of Christ as it should be and for everything that was taken, God sent provision to replace it.
However, more than any of these beautiful things listed above, the biggest miracle I saw was watching a man once strong on the outside become strong on the inside. I saw a man who once leaned on his own understanding, learn to lean on the understanding of one much higher than he. I saw a prisoner discover freedom even while remaining trapped inside his cell. And I saw a good, good father lovingly reach down time and time again to bind the wounds of his child’s heart, even while that child was bound to a chair.
Today, as we prepare to lower this broken body deep down into broken earth, I ask you to join me in remembering that this very day Chad is no longer broken. He is no longer bound! Today Chad is walking in the presence of almighty God. I say, let this broken earth have back this broken body and let us walk away today carrying a smile on our face and piece of Chad’s story forever weaved into our hearts. Let us walk away shouting praises over the release of this prisoner for he has in all ways been set free and if Chad were here, he’d want you to know that God offers to you the same.
Today, let us remember Chad for who he was before the disease and who he became after. Let us remember the talkative and hyper-active Chad and let us remember the calm and quiet spirit we saw him become. Let us remember the die-hard UK, Reds and Bengals fan who wildly clapped his hands while jumping up and down in the stands. And let us remember the days he sat in a wheelchair unable to move but still smiling during every touch-down and home run. Let us remember him as the man with thousands of fishing rods and let us remember him as the man whose death impacted thousands of people.
Let us remember the man who wrapped his babies in blankets each night and the man whose babies learned to wrap blankets around him in the end. Let us remember the husband who devoted his life to protecting and providing for his family and let us remember the husband who later devoted his family to God, fully trusting God to protect and provide.
Let us remember that in the end, Chad was ready. He sensed his life was coming to a close and made certain we all knew how much he loved us. Beyond that, he made certain we all knew that God had drawn him into a place of peace, of rest and of comfort. Chad knew his life was purposeful, intentional and used for good and he knew that the loss of his life was ultimately for the gain of others.
Finally, before we say our goodbye’s to Chad’s physical body let us remember that here we see only his shell-only his cocoon. His metamorphosis is now complete and this beautiful creature whose life points us all to hope, is now flying, laughing, walking and dancing forever free in the presence of Jesus.
One morning, just a few months before Chad died, our then four-year-old daughter burst into our bedroom. She placed her hands on both sides of Chad’s face and said “Daddy you can’t believe it. Daddy you went to heaven and you could walk! Your legs worked again and you didn’t need your wheelchair!”
Today, In the same words of that four-year-old little girl, let us say with joy, “God we can’t believe it! Thank you Father that Chad is now with you in heaven. That he is able to walk again , talk again and to dance before your throne forever more!”
Chad- we love you! Your memory will always be alive and your story will always be told.
Death does not have the final victory. Amen and Amen.”