John 16:22 – So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Sometimes when I am in the midst of a busy “regular life” day outside of work, the sudden realization will hit me that while I am walking about in Target, or Harris Teeter, or while I am shopping in TJ Maxx looking for the next cutest little girl outfits for my step-granddaughters, my sweet friend and patient is still fighting a battle up in the halls of Vidant Medical Center. Where all the noise of strollers and shopping carts are filling my ears, she is listening to the alarms of her IV machine and cardiac monitor. She is not well and she may not get better. Or maybe she will. Maybe she will certainly get better. But being up there on that unit, her mind goes to all the places we usually never even stop to think about when we are in the midst of our busy lives. She wonders…will she live long enough to see next summer? Will she see this summer?
Or maybe she wonders if she will live long enough to see her little boy graduate from high school? Or even yet, will she see him graduate from kindergarten?
Psalms 48:14 – For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.
Sometimes I get so preoccupied with all the immediate needs of day to day life, that I don’t take the time to remember what all of this is for anyway? I was driving home one afternoon, after a very heavy last 24 hours thinking about this. I left the hospital that morning after transferring one of my long time patients into intensive care. She has been a patient – and a friend – for nearly ten years now. Our relationship was deep and true and she was an amazing woman. I truly did not think she would die that day.
Her heart has always been strong and her will to live was as stubborn as they come. She had survived house fires, hurricanes and cancer, and always seemed to be strong and stubborn enough to keep on going. And when I looked at her sweet face on the morning she would be going to heaven, I just did not even let the thought come into my mind that she would leave this life before the next dawn. But that is exactly what she did.
While the day wore on, as I had clinic, paperwork, phone calls and other patients to see, she kept up her fight as hard as she could, in the part of the hospital she always told me she hated the most – the ICU. When I saw her last, just on that very morning during my regular morning rounds, she asked me if it was day or night….she was mixed up – disoriented – after the long night she had just been through. I cannot even imagine that: not knowing if it was day or night. Early or late. Beginning or end. So mixed up. So tired and so ready for rest.
1 Peter 5:10 – And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
I went home that night still thinking that I would get to the hospital the next morning and go see her bright smile in the ICU, and I would have to hear her scolding me for moving her back to the dreaded ICU. I just expected and KNEW that she would be better – her vitals would be stable and she would be ready to move back to her regular room. But in reality, when I arrived to the hospital the next morning, her bed had been empty since late the night before. She passed away late, well after I was asleep, with her family there beside her.
Psalms 73:26 – My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
My heart is so heavy on these days. I feel so sad that I will not see her again, but I am so joyful that she is no longer suffering with her fragile worn out body. Her precious arms will never have to be stuck again with so many needles to check her blood counts. She will never again be woken up by all the machines and alarms of the machines helping her in her fight against this unrelenting terrible disease. She never has to spend another fleeting moment in an ICU. Ever. Her trophy for her battle is much greater than hearing her cancer is gone. She is forever healed and pure, with eternal happiness and love in heaven. Her Lord has carried her home.
All of these last events transpired over a quick short 24 hour period of time, but also in the last 60+ years of her sweet, precious, and very memorable and inspirational life. She will leave always an imprint of hope, strength and courage in the hearts of all who knew her. I truly love her. And I cannot wait to see her again.
So when I am out and about and living life, I try so hard not to overlook the battles going on during every moment. I pray constantly for my patients, and for all of those who are enduring the long hours in the hospitals and in their homes as they run the race and fight the fight. I truly believe that God never wanted us to be sick. But cancer and sickness are a part of our life, and just as He never wanted us to be sick, He certainly never wanted us to endure the pain and suffering alone. We need each other, and not just when it is one of our own. We are all here together to lift each other up in prayer….not just in the bad times but in the good times as well. We pray for recovery and we rejoice in the victories. We celebrate each other in all times good and bad. And when someone leaves us, we must always remember the legacy they leave behind and what their life meant to all those they touched.
Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.