I have a new friend. I've only seen her once and have just spoken to her twice, but she has profoundly impacted me. Her name is Sandy and she has Stage IV cancer and it's raging in her body. During our second phone conversation a few weeks ago, she shared with me that she can feel new tumors popping up under her skin every day. Through tears she said, "Kristie, I think I'm dying and I don't know what to do."
I was silent. I didn't have words.
Oh the textbook answers are there. They are. They are and I believe them to be true and wonderful and hope-filled. And, thankfully, she believes them too. She knows where she will be the moment her eyes close this side of heaven. She also knows the God who promises to never leave us, no matter what.
But, I didn't get the sense that she was asking me for a reminder of all the things that the Bible says about Heaven and God and Jesus. I got the sense that she was asking me...
How do I know that it's time to realize that God's plan for my life is for me to die soon?
How do I prepare my husband?
How do I tell my two, sweet little girls that Mommy's not going to be greeting them when they get off the bus?
How can I not be afraid of the process of dying?
How can I possibly be okay with the pain and agony of watching my body break down before my eyes?
Do I spend my last days preparing for my death by getting my bills in order, my photo organized, my good-byes said or do I spend my last days continuing to focus on living?
How do I know what it will be really like and how can I make that be "enough" for me?
I was silent. Oh, I mumbled some textbook things and tried not to be all "Pollyanna" on her; that's not real. But, really, when all was said and done, I didn't know how to answer her questions. I still don't know how to answer her questions.
For a couple of weeks I told myself that I didn't need to answer them because I'm not staring death in the face today. Perhaps later. But not today.
Then two things happened.
One is that I realized that....wait for it...I will die someday (the insights I have are astounding aren't they?!?!). Whether from cancer or from being a 95 year-old wrinkled-beyond-wrinkled lady who goes to sleep and doesn't wake up the next morning (but who has perky boobs, by the way), I will die some day. The second thing was a friend sent me a link to an article a guy named John Piper wrote a few years ago on the eve of his surgery for prostate cancer. The article is entitled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer" In one section, here's what he writes:
"You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death. We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
I know. I know. Not exactly the "Happy Thanksgiving" message that you wanted to read. Actually, not at all the "Happy Thanksgiving" message that I wanted to send. So we're even. But I can't get this off my mind. And when I can't get something off my mind, I'm realizing that's one of the ways that I am being prompted to share with you.
Yes. Happy Thanksgiving.
I treasure you all.
P.S. Next Monday, I go in to Roswell for a CT scan and a bone scan and then get the results on Wednesday (12/1). I would covet your prayers...I'm feeling pretty good...just a bit achy and a bit frustrated that I can't do much physical exercise without feeling as if I were run over by a small truck. Thankfully, just a small truck!