I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)
These were the Scripture passages that kept running through our conversation as Lois and I talked and prayed for over two hours late at night on Wednesday, September 9. We knew that Lois’ journey on this earth was near the end because her kidneys hadn’t functioned in over 24 hours. We prayed and cried and talked. Mostly we prayed that God would reveal His will in us; that whatever He chose to do we would be faithful and obedient and humble.
Since May 20, 2008 when Lois was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer which had metastasized to her liver, we understood that there was no cure, no perfect surgery, no radiation, no chemotherapy which would give her a long life. We didn’t give up but trusted God to be God as we tried 29 aggressive chemo treatments and waited to see if God would work a miracle. He did.
God showed us what it means to trust Him completely – especially when life didn’t turn out the way we expected. Lois learned to have Christ exalted in her body and lived out the meaning of “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I learned – and am still learning – to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” What a miracle!
On August 19, 2009 Lois had a CT scan and a full set of labs and later that morning our oncologist walked into the exam room with tear filled eyes, sat down and said, “We’re done. The cancer has broken through the liver and is growing and the chemo is no longer effective.” When asked how long he thought Lois had to live he estimated 6 weeks to 6 months. Twenty-three days later, on September 11, just before noon, Lois breathed her last.
We were so blessed that Hospice helped Lois stay home to the end. In the final days the whole family was able to be around; to say good-bye; to acknowledge that only through Christ will we have sufficient courage and strength of character to go on.
Now we are celebrating Christmas. It is both joyful and puzzling. On the one hand we know Lois is experiencing all the glory and wonder of Heaven and yet we miss her. And even though she is physically absent her influence is all around; she is not forgotten. Some have said, “This must be a difficult Christmas.” So far I have not found it difficult – just different.
Joy and Tony continue to be busy at the bank. Their four boys, Brady, Broc, Brandt, and Brently (Bo) are growing and changing so much. Brady is now a first grader and Broc goes to pre-kindergarten every day.
Peter is still living in Des Moines, looking for more steady work but very involved in his church.
Kari and Jeremy have had quite an adventure this year as they took advantage of one of the stimulus programs and qualified for financing to build a home. Their new house is just south of Joy and Tony. Yes, Lois did get to walk through the construction mess a week before she died. Sarah and Natalie enjoy being close to their cousins.
Clarice, my Mom, is in a care facility in Sigourney – about 20 minutes away. It will be two years in March since she fell and broke her neck. While we are grateful there was no paralysis, we know the fall, surgery, recovery and rehab exacerbated her arthritis which is producing lots of challenges. Mom’s address is listed below – she appreciates cards and notes but has too much arthritis in her hands to write back. She will celebrate her 86th birthday on January 16.
I continue to enjoy my position of “pastor to pastors” for the churches of Christian Union. In spite of all the time with Lois and family, I still drove forty thousand miles in 2009 and spent over 90 nights on the road. What a privilege to come alongside so many who are partners in the Gospel and witness firsthand what God is doing in and through the local church. “There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right!”
Thanks for being such an important part of our lives.
Psalm 28:7 –The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.