By: Danielle Ilacqua (Guest Blogger)
Let’s face it, none of us are going to get out of this life alive. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when we are confronted with death knocking at our front door. What happens when we aren’t ready for this chapter in our lives but the pages are being turned with or without our acceptance of it?
My mom use to say, “The only thing constant in life is change.” That being said, I was never good with change. So, last November when my mom went into the hospital for a section of her intestines to be removed, I wasn’t prepared for the news of small cell lung cancer. We were told a mass was on her left lung in November 2016 and by February 2017 she was gone.
I never experienced so much emotion in my life as I did in those three months. I just started a new job and was torn between taking time off to spend with my mom and working to establish myself in a new realm. I sat at my desk in the middle of January crying. I had just finished speaking to the Oncologist who told me we had to start chemo immediately because the cancer had increased in size 50% from one month to the next. It was also in mom’s throat but he wanted to do an MRI of the brain to see if it spread that far. I called my mom to explain the next steps and she told me she was seeing black shadows and needed to lay down and just rest.
At that moment, I felt like time stopped. What should I do? I was planning on taking time off once we started chemotherapy, but my job was still new. I had not built up any leave. Do I take leave without pay? Do I wait and see what happens once chemo starts? I turned to God and cried out for clear direction. I sat at my desk in a pile of tears feeling like my world was coming to an end. “Lord,” I cried. “What should I do?”
Within minutes of being still and seeking Him wholeheartedly, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. My tears dried up and my mind became very focused. I put down my pen and quickly typed up an email. I filled out my “LWOP” – leave without pay forms and handed them in. I quickly packed up my desk and gathered my purse and ran to the subway. As I sat on the train I told God, “Lord you gave me this job. You will sustain it for me while I’m gone. Otherwise you will give me a new one.”
My empathic trust in God’s sovereignty amazed even me. I wasn’t nervous, crying and scared, as I had been the past several weeks. I felt secure in my decision and whatever was about to happen.
I didn’t want my mom to feel alone, be alone, or die alone. She raised me herself and scrubbed toilets to put me through law school. The very least I could do was be by her side – if this was the end. And if it wasn’t the end, I was going to fight in the gap for her in spirit and truth wholeheartedly with 100% of my being.
I opened up the Bible and read the story of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings. The prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah to set his house in order because he was going to die (2 Kings 20:1). King Hezekiah cried out to God and the Bible says, “And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (2 Kings 20:2-3).
But in 2 Kings 20:5-6 God sent Isaiah back to the King with the following message: “I have heard your prayer.” This reassured me that God would hear all my prayers and pleadings going forward; “I have seen your tears.” I knew without a shadow of a doubt God saw each and every tear from the moment we found this mass in my mom’s lung, and I knew he saw my pain.
“Behold, I will heal you … I will add fifteen years to your life.” And this told me that the God I served was a healer and he could heal my mom and even give her 15 more years. These words became my truth and I stood on them day and night. I constantly brought God into remembrance of His word and told Him that He was not like man, and that His word was true.
But on a cold February morning, I sat in the hospital where I watched my mom turn a page in the book that I wasn’t ready for. The cancer spread to her throat and she was suffocating. She couldn’t breathe. The doctors wanted to do a tracheotomy. My mom didn’t want that. I stood there with tears telling her that we had to pray AND believe AND fight! We had to stand on the word! And my mom looked at me with a peace that surpassed all understanding. She said, “Honey, sometimes God says no.”
My mom had, as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “Fought the good fight.” She had finished the race and she kept the faith. She was at peace and ready to move forward. She was ready to end this chapter and begin a new one with Jesus in Heaven. But I wasn’t.
The next four days were extremely painful because I had to trust in God’s will and let my mom go on a morphine drip. The last words I remember my mom saying were to the doctor who came in and asked her how she was feeling once she made the decision to go on a morphine drip. The words pierce my soul but give me hope in these days of grief as I mourn and miss her. In response to how she was feeling, my mom said, “Oh I’m just fine. Don’t worry about me doc, I’m going home.”
As I push forward in the next chapter of my life without my mom, I have a lot of pain. I feel a deep sadness that at times overtakes me. But I also hold true to God’s word that gives me my only comfort in knowing that one day I will see her again. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “… we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring back with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him … And so, we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.”
Respectfully, I disagree with mom in terms of God saying, “no.” He said “YES” to all of us when Jesus went to the cross and conquered the grave. As hard as it is to accept the passing away of my mom, I know for certain within the depths of my broken heart, this isn’t the end.