What Do You Say?

About six years ago, I visited a friend in the hospital….again. She’d already been in there for a little over two months. She had endured three separate surgeries, as well as a bout of pneumonia. She was on a feeding tube because the doctors still hadn’t gotten her system to where it could properly digest food. In the months she’d been in the hospital, she’d only had real food three or four times, and hadn’t been able to keep it down.

Her first diagnosis was a blockage in her gall bladder; then that diagnosis changed to a tumor in the pancreas. She was transferred from the smaller hospital she’d originally been sent to a larger facility where they were more equipped to handle such cases.

The diagnosis quickly changed from a tumor to a cancerous tumor, but still the doctors said it could be cured by removing it, and then follow-up chemo or radiation. That first surgery went well, and she was on her way to a quick recovery, or so we thought.

Until another surgery was required for a twisted intestine, and then another for a blocked bile duct. And still she’d had no solid food. We all watched her grow slowly weaker. Physically, that is. But the one thing that remained constant was her faith.

Even in the midst of all the surgeries, the discomfort, the inability to even get out of bed by herself, the one thing that kept my friend going most of all was her deep and abiding faith in her Lord. Because she
knew the God she served, and she knew His promises, and she knew He would never leave her or forsake her.

Did that mean she didn’t get discouraged? Not at all. She was human like the rest of us, and no matter how strong our faith, I do not think any one of us could say that we would never waiver, never have our moments of doubt.

But then came the day I went to visit her in the hospital again, and found she had been transferred to the oncology wing, I have to say my heart sank. And I KNEW, regardless of what else we were told, that it wasn’t good.

Then came the late night text three days later. A new prognosis. The doctors couldn’t do anything more for her. She was going to be sent home with hospice care. Her daughter was flying in from out of town to help take care of her.

What do you say? And what does it do to our faith?

I remember the last time my husband and I visited her at home. She was dressed up as best she could, laying in her rented hospital bed, wearing her best earrings and favorite necklace, with a colorful scarf knotted around her neck. And slowly enjoying a taste of ice cream.

“Don’t you dare cry for me,” she told us. “Not for a moment! I’m going to meet the Lord soon, and I’m excited! He’s taken care of me this far, and He’s still doing it! I’ll see you all again. Don’t you worry about that!”

Wow! And she meant it, too. That, my friends, is faith. And I hate to admit, I don’t know if I’d have that attitude of faith or not. I certainly hope so, but none of us know how we’d react.

My friend went home to be with our Lord about a week later. Yes, we mourned. We cried. So did her family. But I couldn’t help but remember the words she spoke the last time we saw her.

How would I react? How would I handle it, if it were me, or someone I dearly love?

I honestly cannot say. My faith is strong, but strong enough to not doubt in the midst of a storm like this? To not say, “why me, Lord?” To not try to make a deal with Him to allow me or my loved one to be healed? To give them…or me…just a little more time?

I’ve had other friends, close friends as well as acquaintances, who’ve gone through this situation. Each handled it differently, until very close to the end when they finally realized their time on this earth was short, and they would soon be going on to meet their Lord.

To me and other friends and family, they said “it’s ok. God’s got His plan. It may not be the same as mine, but that’s the plan, and I know it’s going to be ok.”

But at night, in the quiet and stillness of an inability to sleep, what were they thinking? What were they praying? Were they scared and afraid to admit it? Or did they truly believe everything they told us all?

I really don’t know.

I remember my mother’s last few days, especially the last time I was with her. She was so adamant that all she wanted to do was go home to the Lord. I remember her saying very strongly to me, “Don’t you understand? I don’t want to live like this anymore. I just want God to take me home. I’m tired and I’m ready. You’re going to be fine without me. I just want to go.”

And she did four days later. And in her case, I can almost guarantee she wasn’t scared. She was just ready.

Why write this now? First of all, I’m not sick with a catastrophic illness, and neither is anyone in my family. But we do have several friends who are going through some very serious illnesses, as well as friends whose loved ones are also.

And sometimes I just don’t know what to say. Because I’m not in their shoes, and I’m not going through it. I cannot say, “I know how you feel.” Because I don’t. I can try to imagine, but after I imagine it, I go back to my reality. A reality in which I’m ok, and so is my family.

All I can do is support them and their loved ones, be there for them when they need to talk, or cry. And love them through a tough time. And realize that unfortunately this is one of those parts of life that most of us have to go through at least once.

If you or a friend of yours is going through this, don’t ignore them or avoid them because you don’t know what to say or do. They just need to know you’re there; to know you care; and know that if they need something they can ask you without feeling like they’re bothering you.

You may not know exactly what to say or do, but sometimes a smile, a hug, a bunch of flowers from the grocery store, can do more to brighten someone’s day in such times than you’ll ever know.

Is someone you know going through a serious tough time? Do something unexpected for them. See what happens.

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