Have you experienced death of a loved one from cancer? I have. More than once. You too may have experienced multiple losses. I wonder – do we become more compassionate from the experiences?
About 4 years ago, my husband’s sister called and said, “I’ve got cancer.” Because her husband had passed away, Holt was all she had left. She decided to stay with us, and we figured six months or a year, she’d be with us for however long it took.
She arrived, we arranged for hospice to come in and assess her. That was a Friday afternoon. She’s toddling around the house with her cane and they knew where she was physically.
On Monday when the hospice nurse returned, Wrenette was immobilized and no longer speaking. The horror of cancer is this – it was so swift, immediate and painful to see her demise, yet when she decided it was time to quit therapy, she also decided it was time to go home to her Lord.
In the next few days she didn’t move. That beautiful creamy skin turned to an ashy gray and we physically had to move her. One afternoon the hospice nurse said, “Who’s she holding on for? Who has she not talked to?” Our son Matthew! We had been so consumed by her, we hadn’t even thought to call Matthew.
We texted, “Matt, call right now.” He was able to step out of work for just a moment and say, “Aunt Wrenette, I love you. Goodbye.” In that moment she said, “Well hello, Matt.” My husband, the hospice nurse, the chaplain, her two friends—we all jumped with surprise, absolute delight. But that’s all she said. Her skin was still that ashy gray color.
She had converted to Catholicism. I had never heard Catholic last rights before, but the priest had been called in by her friends. In that moment, the priest physically called Father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David and the other saints to the front gates of heaven to welcome their sister home.
The woman who was ashy gray and couldn’t move—physically we had to move her—pivoted from her hips with her arms outstretched and a soft yellow glow not only filled her face but filled the entire room with light.
It’s the most beautiful moment of my entire life. Now we are moving from Dallas to rural North Louisiana to be within 2 blocks of my 91 & 92 year old parents. Why? Dad has cancer and as the doctor told him, it’s bad and it’s everywhere.
I’m also scared silly yet honored at the same time that I CAN pick up and move to spend time with my mom and my father, the ones who introduced me to my Father who art in Heaven. As others prepare for SheSpeaks and other wonderful conferences, know that I will be MIA this year for many events as I will be soaking in the presence of my father and my God.
That’s the horror of cancer. We have to face it to get through it, one day and one person at a time. Yet I am filled with love, peace and confidence that God has us in His loving, healing hands. Otherwise, I would be horrified. You too?
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