Yesterday was my dad’s second anniversary in Heaven. My mom’s is soon, just three weeks away. Knowing they are together and enjoying Heaven’s pure delights is comforting. Knowing I will see them again is even better. What sweet reunions must take place in Heaven every day.
With regard to my last blog post, about Jesus going before us, ready and waiting to care for us in troubled times, I want to share a bit of the path that was walked preceding Dad and Mom’s journey Home.
Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the Spring of 2012. He had a long and complicated recovery, but recover he did and eventually got back to a somewhat normal and enjoyable routine of his retirement days. His diabetes, however, became difficult to control and had to be closely monitored.
On December 26, 2014, Mom called and requested my brother and I come for a visit. She had something to tell us. Having already been to the doctor, lung cancer was suspected. More tests were scheduled and biopsies were taken. They were correct. There was a mass on her right lung. Surgery was February 12, 2015. Stage one. Thankfully, it had not spread. After surgery, she had an adverse reaction to the anesthesia and spent two days in ICU. Once she cleared that hurdle, she improved remarkably and was able to go home several days later.
Recovery for Mom was slow and painful. Her rheumatoid arthritis definitely complicated it. She and Dad learned a new normal, both, now, with significant health challenges.
2016 brought further health issues for them both. Mom grew weaker overall, no longer able to tolerate many activities away from home. Dad’s medical reports that summer revealed his cancer had returned. He endured six months of chemotherapy from the fall of 2016 to early spring of 2017. Mom and Dad bought a small house in town and began the process of downsizing and moving. The door opened for us to purchase their house on the farm.
The summer months of 2017 were filled with helping them move and preparing our house for sale. Dad was active all summer, slower, but still able to get out and go when he wanted. Mom kept busy with small projects at the new house. They were moved in by mid-September. After closing on the sale of our house the first week of October, our move to Lewisport began. We celebrated Dad’s birthday the end of that month. His decline started soon after. The pancreatic cancer had spread to his stomach and lymph nodes. The doctor gave him a short window of time.
Mom had been experiencing neck and shoulder pain for several months, thinking her RA was flaring or a pulled muscle was the culprit. Her pain became severe and a trip to the emergency room two days before Thanksgiving revealed her lung cancer had returned. It was stage four, having spread to her liver, lymph nodes and cervical spine. Two vertebrae showed significant deterioration. She was put on heavy pain medicine and palliative radiation began immediately. Hospice had already been called in to help care for Dad. I moved in with them and my brother was there as often as he could be, especially at night when Mom and Dad’s pain seemed the worst.
The community rallied around us. A prayer vigil was held and people poured into the back yard. Prayers and songs were lifted, love and encouragement offered in abundance. Family and friends came to sit with Dad when I took Mom for her radiation treatments. They ran errands, brought food, sent cards and gifts.They were undoubtedly the hands and feet of Christ. The doctors and nurses supported us too, taking numerous calls at all hours and even contacting us at home with test updates and extending their concern. Mom’s sister flew in from Arizona to help. It was unimaginable to consider. Mom and Dad were both dying.
On December 11, 2017, Dad slipped quietly into eternity. Exactly three weeks later on January 1, 2018, Mom made her journey and joined him. It was a well known tradition for Dad to exit a family gathering before Mom because she liked to stay and talk awhile longer. Dad routinely hollered over his shoulder on his way out the door, “Dawn, don’t be too long.” My brother commented on how that scenario was repeated, spiritually speaking. Dad went on ahead, Mom lingered long enough to have one last Christmas with us and then made her exit.
We were numb with grief and exhaustion. Yet God continued to show His faithfulness. In so many ways, through so many people, He reached down and held us in the palm of His hand. He never once let go. He prepared the way and made provisions before we knew we needed them.
Several months before Mom and Dad’s health declined, God provided me a new job that not only allowed us the freedom to move to Lewisport but also gave me much flexibility. It allowed me time and freedom to care for Mom and Dad. God provided this job ahead of time.
And just when they needed to downsize, God provided Mom and Dad the two bedroom home overlooking the river. It wasn’t their beloved farm, but it was beautiful and just what they needed. Our home in Owensboro sold without us even putting it on the market. We arrived in Lewisport just in time. These details were not lost on Mom and Dad either. They both remarked how God’s provision was right on time. In the midst of their suffering, they recognized His faithfulness. Mom said more than once, “God is still good.”
There are many more small, seemingly insignificant happenings that I now recognize as God’s hand. He’s always in the details, going before, preparing the way, awaiting our arrival. And as we step into the deep waters, the weird, the heartache, the impossible…He’s already there. Every time.