“If I could speak all the languages of the earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps not record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever-faith, hope, and love-and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13 1-13
When God calls us to love we have a choice. We obey Him or we don’t. In December I made that choice to obey. It had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Him. My brother-in-law had been diagnosed with colon cancer. After ten years of knowing something was wrong, colonoscopies, hospital stays, and feeling poorly, he asked for my help.
He asked if I would help him find a great doctor. I researched and found the best of the best. He was soon calling and by God’s grace was in for an appointment. She wanted to admit that day, which he was that night when a room became available. Surgery was scheduled as soon as possible. He remained in the hospital for a week before the surgery. He had a battle with being on blood thinners. An added kicker was the diabetes. Later we would learn that both of these things would make healing very difficult.
Surgery day came. Everything went as planned. The T4 tumor was removed. No cancer in his lymph nodes and nothing metastasized. This we knew was a miracle. This tumor had been growing for eight to ten years. Our prayers were answered.
Two days later something was going terribly wrong. The surgeon wanted to go in and see what was happening. The window of opportunity was small. It was passing by the minute. He was scheduled for surgery that day, but two hours before surgery he refused treatment. He was simply finished fighting. He had gone through so much the day before and now facing another surgery. This surgery could have been a one and done giving him a road to healing and home. It too could have been many surgeries to come, a long stay in the ICU and a fight like he’s never faced.
As deadly infection was setting a course for sepsis to overtake his body. Everyone from his surgeon, to his nurses, to his family, begged and pleaded, “Just try, please, just try.” There was hope! For us that was everything. We already knew God healed had healed him of the cancer.
We had meetings with the ethics committee, his doctors, nurses, palliative care and hospice. I was speaking in a room filled with medical personnel, the best of the best in this area. My husband was given power of attorney by his brother for this reason. Pascal said, “If there is any hope at all, please, let them do whatever is needed.” But he made is decision with a clear mind. Now it was too late for us to step in. What was left was for us to honor his wishes. This would be a very difficult road for us to walk. A journey we still today question.
My husband’s parents visited him. My mother-in-law broken, had laid over him, tears falling, begging him to just allow the surgery. My sweet father-in-law, quietly sitting in the corner of the room, with agony across his face. I sat upon his bed, my own tears streaming down, asking him to explain, to help us understand. But all he would say is, “I’m done. No more.”
That afternoon I knew what I was to do. I was to remain with him. My husband’s parents had a friend pick them up that afternoon. My mother-in-law hugged me as she had never embraced me before, saying, “Thank you, Rob.” I knew with their age and all that they had already been through there was no way they could remain there with him. My husband couldn’t take off work. It is a sad world we live in when a family must make such sacrifice.
I remained with my brother-in-law for seven days. I would stay with him during the day and and go home late at night. Now, there’s something I have to share. I wasn’t close to my brother-in-law. In fact, I didn’t really like him at all. There was a battle raging within me. I was angry he wasn’t trying. I was angry his parents and family would endure such agony to come. There in his ICU room my heart battled every emotion possible.
The first day I helped him as much as possible. He couldn’t eat or drink. He could have ice chips. I was still praying for healing. That next day he went unresponsive. For the next five days I would watch a mostly healthy man die of sepsis. I knew what my dad had gone through in his last days with cancer, but this was something I had never experienced.
If you don’t know about sepsis is extremely painful. The pain meds increased hourly for the next five days. The nurses were above and beyond the best of the best. They cared for me in valuable ways. They explained what was coming. Each day was something new. The sights, sounds, smells, and sheer emotional agony is something I will never forget.
Healing doesn’t always come as we wish it to be. Healing to can come in heaven. That is where Pascal found his healing. I remember placing my hand on his heart. I couldn’t believe he was dying, but his heart was still so powerful. It wasn’t giving up. You know, the heart is the last to give up. I sat next to him as his body was slowly shutting down. It was all just so wrong. But yet there was a beauty. That beauty, that grace, was God. He wasn’t leaving Pascal. He was remaining until He carried him home. I can only imagine what Pascal experienced there in those moments before his heart finally gave way for his homegoing.
For months later I wouldn’t sleep at night. I was still researching. I was so trying to heal him. Isn’t that crazy? He would be gone on Christmas Day. To this day I am still struggling with leaving that room.
I got to his room early each morning. I brought my Bible to read to him. I read many scriptures, but what I read the most was 1 Corinthians 13 1-13 and Psalm 23. I would curl up as close to his bed as possible, open my Bible, place my hand upon him, and read the words that will forever mean more to me than ever before. As I read the tears poured. I would lay over him and simply pray. I talked to him for hours upon hours. So much so I could envision him sitting up and saying to me, “Rob, enough already. Just shut up!”
I would look out the window at night and tell him the beauty of the stars. Share with him as morning snow fell. I shared my life with him, but most of all I shared Jesus. Jesus poured Himself out in that room. I knew He was near. I knew because of what I was experiencing. I wasn’t strong enough for this. I thought I could do it, but I couldn’t. He did it. It was all Him. I think that’s why I struggle so when people thank me for all I did for Pascal. It breaks my heart to hear those words. I know they are simply sharing gratitude. But for me, somehow it cheapens all that Pascal and I shared in that room.
I would call my husband’s parents and lay the phone on Pascal’s chest as they would pour out their love to their son. I just folded over in the chair and cried as I listened to my mother-in-law share her love to her son that would never again reply to her spoken words of ‘I love you.’
I would place my hand upon his heart and pray over him. I spoke to him about heaven. I remember the words I shared before I left. “Pascal, do you hear His voice? Do you see His angels surrounding you? You are about to experience all of heaven and you will see Jesus on Christmas Day. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
So, if I knew. If in my gut I knew, why did I leave him that night? I will ask myself that for the rest of my days. It is an inner struggle for me. A battle that I walk because I cannot forgive myself for not being there. But again, the nurses were sure he would make it through the night. His vitals never changed. They were to call if there was a change. But everything happened very quickly. He left this world for heaven in the early hours of Christmas morning. I missed being there by five and a half hours. I know, maybe that’s how it was suppose to be. Maybe he was waiting for me leave. I will never know. I just know I wish I had been there.
See, I opened up to him and apologized for not being nicer. For not being the sister-in-law I should have been. What I learned, what I knew, I should have invested time in him. Before the ICU I wouldn’t have called us friends, but leaving that room on Christmas Eve it was a honor for me to call him friend.
Each night before I went home the nurse would tell me they thought he would make it through the night. Of course they can’t really know, but through experience they have a good idea, but sometimes they are surprised. The nurses were very open and honest with me. With each new day I knew what was to come. But even knowing, it just doesn’t prepare you.
Each night I went home planning to return early morning. I won’t share with you the experiences of his death. But as each day passed I knew it was closer to his homegoing. When I left him on Christmas Eve the plan was for me to return early Christmas morning.
The phone call came around 1:45 that morning. I was awaken by the ring. I didn’t answer the first time. I just sat there staring at the phone. “No, God. Please, no!” The second call went unanswered too. On the third call I picked up and on the other end was the nurse. She gave the phone to the doctor and then he handed it to the pastor. I now had a choice to wake my husband or allow him to sleep for the few hours I knew would be peaceful. I let him sleep as I sat on the loveseat waiting for him to wake. Before I could speak words tears flooding down. He knew. My husband was broken. He would drive to his parents house and from there we would make the drive to the hospital to pick up my car that remained there for seven days.
So, in me being transparent it is to share with you that more than anything love is most important. For me, in this room God taught me so much. He taught me to let go of self, to focus on Him, and to obey when He calls. I wasn’t friends with my brother-in-law, but he was my brother in Christ. He was my husband’s brother, my son’s uncle, the son of my husband’s parents. I wanted to comfort them all, to shield them, to fix things and make it right. Pascal had reached out to me. I couldn’t not reach back.
In these times that will come to all of us let us remember to love. Let us lay everything down at the cross and trust in our Lord to make a way. In doing so, in allowing God to move, in giving Him room, I experienced Him as never before. I was his vessel and He poured out Himself.
As my family journeys through loss and healing it hasn’t been easy. It never is. But knowing that Pascal is waiting on the side brings hope alive. I am still healing. My journey is different. I spent more time with Pascal in those seven days then in the entire twenty-eight years of being married to his brother.
Friends, let us not waste time. Let us never bargain love. But may we reach in deep and love big. Always giving God the room He needs to grow His love. Maybe you are facing something similar. Maybe God is asking you to step out and trust Him. I hope through my sharing you will be able to see there is nothing too big for our God. Wherever He calls us we will never go unprepared.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close to me. Your rod and your staff protect mde and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love with pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”