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Posts Tagged ‘loss’

The Rest of the Story

It was the first day of Spring. We had just received the terrible cancer diagnosis for my beloved mom-in-law Nina. The first surgeon she visited spoke words we were not prepared to hear. “I can’t do surgery because if I were to take all of the cancer out I would not even be able to close you back up.”

I began gathering photos of Nina in preparation for… I cannot even speak the word.

Anyone who knows her also knows that she hates having her picture taken. Therefore the task would not be easy. Oh we had plenty of pictures, but nearly all of them have her wagging a finger in the direction of the photographer with a death threat hanging in mid-air. This woman is not to be trifled with. I joked with her one happy day that if she didn’t stop putting the stink-eye on those trying to capture her pretty image we’d have to resort to using all those ugly photos at her memorial. That would teach her!

Beautiful silver hair frames her lovely face. Her skin is smooth and nearly wrinkle-free. She and her son joke that all the butter they consume keeps the wrinkles pushed out from the inside. She was able to attend the graduation of her granddaughter Desani where someone snapped a gorgeous picture of the two of them. She showed it to me and said, “When I die just Photoshop my head onto all those other bad pictures.” Note to self: Never try to teach Nina a lesson.Nina & Desi

For those of us who live in Salisbury, Dr. Black is a household name. He and Nina go way back. He’s treated many members of her family for cancer starting with her husband. Even now while Dr. Black is in the midst of trying to retire he’s committed to treating Nina’s sister until the end. The only criticism I’ve ever heard her speak of him is that she cannot understand why he doesn’t wear socks. Something about his naked ankles has always been a little disconcerting to her. Nina has baked him and his staff many a pan of brownies. She was saddened to hear of Dr. Black’s retirement, but took right up with his associate Dr. Brinkley. Perhaps the fact that he wears socks gives him cred. She loved him immediately because he joked with her and understood her sense of humor. The three of them have a running disagreement on whether brownies should contain nuts or not. Dr. Black poked his head into her exam room one day and said, “Don’t you let him talk you out of putting nuts in the brownies!”

What will Salisbury do without Dr. Black?

What will we do without our beloved Nina? My heart grieves at the thought.

Last Spring I wrote a story called Daffodils of Hope which ended with a request that you pray for her. Here’s the rest of the story. Dr. Brinkley immediately started breast cancer treatment which has shrunk the tumors so much that everyone is amazed. Nina has had no terrible side effects, has not had to endure chemo or radiation. We had no idea such a hormone therapy existed. At this point it’s looking like she may not even require surgery. God willing, Nina will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on Christmas day.

Never once did Dr. Brinkley treat her as though she were too old to hope. With each visit he listened intently as she and her children asked questions and relayed symptoms. In fact he listened so well that at times there was actual silence in the room as he processed our concerns. How rare is that? If you know the Clark clan you’ll certainly appreciate that abnormality.

Thank you doctors Black and Brinkley for treating her and many others so well. Thank you to all who prayed for our beloved Nina.

And thank You Lord that I won’t have to be learning how to use Photoshop anytime soon.

PS:

The Lord took Nina home on May 3, 2017. Her memorial service included lots of pictures with stern looks at the camera. But they just made us laugh as we remembered this lovely lady. The picture above with her granddaughter Desani is who she truly was. We miss her so much already. Thank the Lord we know where she is as she fully trusted her Savior when He said He would never leave nor forsake her. Praise God she is pain free, smiling, and out of the way of all those pesky cameras.

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He rehearsed the bitter tale. The event angered him so much that he didn’t set foot in church for nearly thirty years. The details of the hateful exchange were as fresh as the day they happened. I felt my own anger rising in sympathy for his wounds. Then followed another horrible incident. His wife left. Bitter and lonely he nearly drank himself to death as he grieved. Sickness gained such a grip on his soul that he finally cried out to the Lord, asking for forgiveness and healing.

And it came. As he retold the story his face lit up with joy instead of the dark bitterness that nearly consumed him. But his story didn’t end there.

Psalm 78 recounts the history of God’s deliverance of His people from slavery. As He led them skillfully like a shepherd with his flock, they enjoyed protection, provision, and many other good things from His hand.  But the sad commentary in verse 32 says, “Despite His wonders, they refused to trust Him.”

Again in verses 42 and 43, “They did not remember His power and how He rescued them from their enemies. They did not remember His miraculous signs in Egypt.”

Though my elderly friend remembered his terrible wounds of yesterday, he also recounted how God’s faithfulness got him through it. You see, the occasion of our conversation was shortly after the loss of his second wife to cancer. Oh how he loved her! They had prayed often for healing and trusted that the Lord would deliver her. But God chose to take her instead.

My friend had peace.

His own wilderness journey had prepared him to understand that God is good, no matter what. He had learned to lean on the One Who delivered him from the terrible tragedies of long ago. As we discussed her passing, he laughed often at the quirky things she did. She loved shoes and he was enjoying sharing her treasures with others as he sorted her things. His memories of her were recounted with a smile.

“It sure is quiet at the house, especially in the evenings,” he said. “But she’s healed now. Thank God she’s not hurting anymore. It was bad there at the end.” Though sadness is part of his losing her, bitterness was never entertained.

Perhaps the key to defeating the bitterness that can come with hurt and loss is to remember God’s care. The same Psalm about those who forgot Him ends with this comfort:

“He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.” Psalm 78:72

When I find myself rehearsing an event from the past and anger begins to rise within my soul, it’s a good indicator that I’m hanging on to bitterness. Can I look instead to the One Who got me through it? Do I trust that He can work these things for my good? Will I remember His care in times past and choose to believe in His goodness?

It’s a sad and bitter soul who, despite His wonders, refuses to trust the Lord. As we remember the heartaches, may we never forget the One Who carried us in His arms.

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The page before me was blank, like my heart. Nothing would come.

Empty.

With a loss, we go through various emotions. I think one of the hardest might be emptiness.

I remember when our little church closed and we knew it was time to give the building to others who needed it. Walking through the sanctuary, knowing our time there was finished…

Oh, such emptiness.

When my mom died and I knelt by her grave, arranging flowers in the heavy metal vase. I shivered not so much with the cold, but with deep sorrowful emptiness. Sure, she is with the Lord and certainly better off. But my soul was empty.

We rode by our house the other day. It will be auctioned off soon. We wanted to speak to the tenants one more time, and have some sort of closure. The trees out front dropped golden leaves spreading a blanket on the lawn. All the vehicles were gone. Even the lawnmower they kept chained to the tree was missing. I used to love that place. Sitting on the big front porch we often prayed for our little church next door and wave as the neighbors walked by. As I knocked on the glass door I could see through the lace curtain.

Empty.

Anyone who’s ever lost a job knows the feeling. The first few days of not having to set an alarm feel like vacation. Well… unless one has kidney stones.

Then suddenly there’s the office to clear out, and the questions to answer, and the direction to find. Emptiness can nearly suck the life right out of one’s soul.

Unless…

Emptiness is replaced.

Not because things are suddenly better.

But because the Lord gives something to hold on to… a sweet word of hope.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” –Isa.43:19

Like a new season. Fall bursts forth dressed as a thousand burning bushes. She shines like a fire that won’t go out reminding me, “For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” –Eccl. 3:1

In the Lord’s kindness He speaks a word of hope. His comfort fills my empty soul with promises of a beautiful purpose ahead, and something new.

Should I linger on the porch, peering into what used to be?

Perhaps it’s time I realize…

He’s taking me through empty places…

in order to give me something beautiful and new.

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Dear Sweet Lord, Please set our hearts on fire like a thousand burning bushes that won’t go out! Strengthen us to step out of the emptiness and walk by faith into a fresh new place of service. Thank You that Your mercies are new every single morning of our lives. We love and trust You evermore!

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