My stomach tightened as I felt my eyes begin to water. Opening my Facebook feed is a regular morning routine that I consider a vocational necessity. My usual morning check ins were immediately detoured by the photo before me.
I stared at her grinning face in the wheel chair my husband pushed and a heavy sigh escaped my lips.
“How could she really be gone?” I pondered for the umpteenth time.
“This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. We were supposed to be raising cousins side by side.”
I smile escaped my lips as her humorous often taunting voice echoed. She had loved to tease and I imagined even from heaven she would be chiding me with a “Come on. It is what it is. Time to move on.”
Moving on from my husband’s twin sister Jennifer’s death this past year hasn’t been an easy task — especially after our family rapidly observed the two year anniversary of her husband’s passing.
Even with great guardians such as my husband’s brother and his wife, I observe their kids regularly face the reality of life here on earth without their parents. My own children who having witnessed a child’s worst nightmare, struggle with the knowledge that two parents really can die. I hate that my son’s entire childhood memories will be tainted by the grief we all bear.
Walking beside Jen and her husband Dwight face eternity was a life changing experience. Faith takes on new meaning when fear of death is a daily experience for so long it becomes the norm. Walking alongside these two brave souls taught me:
1. A highlighted eternal perspective. When “cancer” is terminal, families learn to turn to God begging for daily grace. We also found hope that human life as we know it isn’t the end and one day will there ever be a heavenly reunion and knowing us party like no other.
2. A hunger and thirst for what matters. When life is counted in days, choices change. Priorities become clear. Faith and people become essentials while many earthly treasures and distractions fade.
3. Perfection is no longer a struggle. Gratitude for the good days and shaking off the bad become a way of life. You do what you can and that’s all there is. All of us have days where we wish or actually barely get out of bed and life goes on.
4. Relationships matter. The love of their church family and ours filled in so many gaps none of us could humanly fill. Memories become priceless and family traditions from the past evolve into treasures of the heart.
5. Fun is to be savored and pursued because life is short. I’m so grateful for all the family birthdays, double dates, holidays and celebrations we observed and eventually fought for in her final days.
6. Tomorrow is not a guarantee and there are moments to be seized. During the years of their cancer battles, I freely without without my usual obligatory guilt escaped the realities of our lives visiting Paris alone on a group tour over a Thanksgiving holiday. Another year, I joined my sister a popular Bible study author and speaker along with all of the women on my mom’s side of the family on an inspirational cruise. My bucket list is shrinking and I embrace a life of more spontaneity with fewer possible regrets.
7. Our opportunity to leave a legacy has an expiration date. Facing cancer times two has imprinted on my very soul a desire to daily answer God’s call and imprint this world for His glory. I want to leave that imprint on every soul I touch, the clients I counsel, the counselors I train, and in the hearts of my children who will hopefully grab the torch of faith and run the race for future generations.
Grief comes in waves that ebb and flow. When my heart is overwhelmed, I cling to verses such as 2 Corinthians 4:17.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)
I’d love for you to share how facing the death of a loved one or even your own diagnosis impacted your life for the better. Suffering and grief can be emotionally devastating, but walking out a life of hope grants us peace as the reality of eternity moves from being a spiritual concept to life reality.
Want to dig deeper into the topic of facing eternity? Tricia Goyer’s chapter “Heaven Over My Shoulder” in Walk It Out encourages us to make the most of the life lessons we learn as we hold the hand of someone stepping into eternity.
Michelle Nietert, Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Director of Community Counseling Associates, has been passionately equipping audiences in the community, church, school and private practice office setting for over twenty years. Her articles have been published in ParentLife Magazine and on the MOPS blog. She is currently working with a publishing agent on a book for parents equipping them to engage in Uncomfortable Conversations with their Children. Michelle and her husband Drew work diligently at being happily married for almost 15 years and have two children they almost adore too much. Michelle loves inspiring readers and audiences alike to discover Solutions for Life with Practical Teaching and Biblical Wisdom.
More about Walk it Out
What Happens When We Read God’s Word and Actually Do What it Says?
Bestselling Author Tricia Goyer demonstrates the powerful work God accomplishes if we are willing to step out in obedience to Biblical commands and His quiet urgings, no matter our fears or feelings of inadequacy.
Walk It Out illustrates the real-life results of listening to the Scriptural mandates such as care for the orphan, serve the poor, go into the world to spread the gospel, and love others of all races. The author’s journey, from accepting Christ’s forgiveness and telling her story of redemption to answering the call to adopt seven children when she least expected, is filled with the exhilarating, radical, unexpected life that we experience when we walk into God’s plans for us.
“I neither planned or expected any of this—from the ten kids to the stamped-up passport. I didn’t accomplish these things by making a list and checking it off. They happened as I took steps of faith to follow God’s directives.” ~Tricia Goyer