—written by Regina
Paul wrote, “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NRSV)
My life’s greatest pleasures have come from knowing, that I have so much to learn about life, and my experiences in the unknowing. I am willing to walk into the uncertainty as a child ready to receive both joy, and sorrow.
I sat with her. We cried. She sat there on the edge of the hospital bed, hands clasped, my arms draped around her. She was dying. The diagnosis was Cholangiocarcinoma, more commonly known as Bile Duct Cancer.
“Jean, my doctor was here. He informed me about the cancer, and then he suggested surgery. I’ve agreed to the insertion of a stent, which will afford me more time, but I am not having treatment. The physician said I have eleven months to live if I decline the cancer treatment. I want to live out the remainder of my natural life as is.”
It began. The pacing. Running, walking, or moving away from the problem helped when I needed an objective view. My mind desperately filtered through names of physicians, phone numbers for second opinions, options, alternatives, and finally denial. This was not a skinned knee, a broken finger, a splinter, a pain as a result of rejection, a loss of a job, a poor grade at school, a disagreement with a friend, a material loss, a battered ego, or a rift with a sibling; all of which I (as many have) experienced throughout life. Searching for a band-aid, a self-help book, taking a class on motivation, learning a new strategy, applying a new proven technique, or purchasing another tool was not going to work. I went to school, I took CPR training, I became a Nurses Aid, I learned the terminology, I worked in Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, Radiology. I worked on the Cancer floor; it was not enough to have knowledge.
I was left with nothing more than to rely on the abstract notion of faith. I was left with falling on my knees and asking God to sustain me as I walked through the uncertainty of death; We were left in the unknowing.
Grandma knew me pretty well, and gave me a few minutes to pace off my energy before she said, “C’mon, sit here by me. Let’s talk about this.” I did not want to sit with her. I wanted to run, to hide, to be mad at her; I did not want to deal with her death.
I searched my thoughts for some idea or long held grudge that might aid me in distancing myself from her, but I had no grudges or complaints about her, or toward her. In fact, everything we had experienced together as family had always managed to be navigated. That’s not to say that she and I never disagreed, because we did. I was the one, the grandchild who bucked, threw tantrums, and rebelled against many of her ideas, her wants, and her views toward life and God. But I was also the one who always gave in. And, we always forgave one another after a disagreement.
“I don’t know how to help you die. I’ve never done this before. I can’t.”
“Jean, do you think God is always with us?” She said, while rubbing the tears from my face with Kleenex.
“What?” I stopped pacing. “Have you lost your senses? What kind of a question is that?”
“You’ve taught me my entire life that God is always near!”
“You said, “He carved us on the palm of his hand!”
“You said, “He would never leave us or forsake us!”
“You said, “He loved us so much He died for us!”
“Do you doubt God?
How can you ask me that now?
What kind of a question is that?”
Grandma sat quietly on the bed waiting for me to stop rambling and pacing. Then she dried my face, and answered my questions.
I said, “He would. Now tell me. Do you believe God is always with us?”
I hesitated, knowing how clever grandma had become in the art of rhetoric, and knowing my answer would move me Beyond Comfort; Beyond myself and into my path of faith.
Her last year was filled with celebration and joy spent in time with her family and friends; she passed away peacefully with no pain.
I was there. I held her hand; God held me.
I would like to know what to expect, the dying process. She was diagnosed this April. I don’t see much hope for her on line or her doctors, they are not telling her how long she has, but he did say you will die from this. Thanks, Todd
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