Monday, June 18, 2012

Joy, Peace, Life lessons from a funeral

This is a long post. It took several days and a lot of tears. I hope if you read it, you read all of it. I think it is an important look at life and death and how what we view as tragic, can be wonderful.

No one ever purposefully plans to go to a funeral as part of their weekend activities. Unfortunately it was one of mine Saturday afternoon. I actually wasn't going to go when I first heard. Then I spent some time thinking about why I wasn't going to go. They were really bad reasons. I didn't want to cry. I didn't want to take the time away from my weekend. I didn't want to drive an hour each way for an hour service. I barely knew the girl it was for. Such terrible reasons. So selfish and I realized how poorly I would have to think of myself for not going just because I didn't want to cry. It was for the daughter of a former coworker who I had unintentionally lost touch with.She had been my boss for the first 3+ years at my job (this year will be 10 years). He daughter was my age and lived in South Carolina. I only met her once, at a baby shower the office threw for her in honor of her mother, who we were all very close with. The daughter had always had problems, drugs, theft, authority issues in general, lies, money, all of it and was then pregnant. Never married, never had a job, never had a drivers license because it was too much effort. Everyone else always took care of her. My coworker adopted the first baby, Ryan, a beautiful and high spirited little boy and has been raising him, her grandson, as her own boy. Late last year I had heard the daughter had gotten pregnant again. Everyone sighs and rolls their eyes in a 'here we go again' silent message. But here's where it gets tricky. During the testing for the pregnancy, the doctors found tumors in her stomach. They were highly cancerous. There were a lot of decisions to be made, by someone who's never had to.

Again, I had lost touch with this coworker. I was not a part of her life while she and her daughter were faced with these decisions.

She chose chemotherapy while pregnant. Knowing the options were do nothing, and potentially everyone dies, or treat the cancer, and potentially lose the baby. How do you make that choice?

My coworkers daughter made many more choices over the 11 months to follow. She chose to find her faith. She chose to repair the relationship with her mother that had suffered for so many years. She chose to repair the relationship with her stepfather who had always tried to love her and be a part of her life. She chose to find herself and become the person she always wanted to be. A stronger person. A happier person. A person with a peaceful heart and loving soul.

Her baby boy was delivered by c-section at 36 weeks, 3 lbs 9 oz, and perfectly healthy. He's a true miracle baby. He's beautiful.

After the delivery and continued treatment, the daughter's cancer was pronounced clear and in remission. She was healthy and while still recovering from Chemo and pregnancy, she was on her way to living.

A month or so later, during follow up appointments the doctors found another tumor. In her brain. With chemotherapy and treatment, she was given a 10% chance at life. She chose not to fight. She chose to trust her God, and her faith and her family's strength, knowing it was a death sentence. She struggled with her personal demons and spent a lot of time questioning if this had been brought on by the life she had lived, was it her own fault. She read her bible. She prayed. She spent time with her family and her boys.

She died last Wednesday afternoon. She passed in her sleep, at peace with herself and her faith. How many of us would have the strength to face death in such a way? How many of us would be bitter? Angry? Question God and faith and throw it all away because it wasn't fair?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about her this weekend and my coworker. She had to bury her daughter. She has to raise two boys while in her 60's. These boys are never going to know their mother. My coworker was at peace also. She was grateful, so very, very grateful for the 11 months she had with her daughter to mend their relationship and grow together in strength. She was able to watch her daughter struggle with the choices in her life and come to peace with them and with herself and let it all go. She was able to see the meaning behind her daughters struggle and death and she could see the miracle in her new baby grandson and how much more precious he truly is. He's the miracle everyone hopes to see in their lifetime, but few ever do.

There is no bitterness. There is a sense of loss and grief, but there's no regret. There's no remorse. There is pride. There is light. There is Joy. There is love, lots and lots and lots of love. I was so overwhelmed by her story and to hear her mother, my coworker, talk about her with such strength and peace.

God heals in three ways:
Medical technology. The medinces, and surgeries, and doctors and nurses.
Miracles. The ones that no one can explain and can only be accepted with gratitude and faith.
Death. He reachs down with His fatherly hand and says 'enough' and He gathers you to Himself and heals all your pains, all your sorrows, all your worries, and He brings you Home.

We should all hope to eventually face our own death, and those of loved ones, with the same peace and strength and find the Joy in their lives, and ours to comfort us and lead us home.

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