It’s nearly the one year anniversary of my sister-in-love’s homegoing! At this time last year she was in the hospital dying — I didn’t know she was dying at the time.)
I was watching her little ones for the week, ages 4 and 7. Then the call came. The shock. Only 48 hours to live! With babies in tow, we hightailed it to the hospital.
During my last visit at home with Jess she had mentioned her friend’s book launch, The Courage Club. She wished she had written about her own cancer journey and the lessons learned along the way. I could hear the regret in her voice.
Don’t worry, sis! We haven’t forgotten you or the courage God gave you in your brief 33 years of life. This post is for you! We all need a share of your courage for this journey. Like Elisha prayed, I want a double portion of your spirit.
As one of her caregivers, I had a front row view. What I witnessed was extraordinary faith! She knew how to “be strong and of good courage”. Bear with me. I want to share some of the nitty-gritty.
I’m hoping to leave a few of her footprints in writing. Footprints this big from a tiny person are hard to follow.
Courage club members put on their big-girl panties and do hard things!
You don’t ask for big things from God and sit on your duff. Labeled stage 4 cancer after her double mastectomy, Jess asked for healing. Then she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Her diet changed from processed foods to organic, gluten-free foods that often tasted and smelled very strange. Never mind the green smoothies!
Next, she learned how to swallow pills. Couldn’t handle vitamins before, but she did it! She joked and choked. Score!
Add the needles, IVs, the nausea, the hormone changes, the loss of hair, lack of sleep, and unremitting pain, at times.
Courage club members make a path for joy in suffering.
Oh, my! The things we laughed about! The bodily fluids and functions we discussed!
The memories she made with her family are precious! We begged her to slow down. Never mind that. Spending time with those she loved was top priority.
When she was feeling rotten, she planned happy outings for her kids. I got to execute some of those! Quiet house for her, happy day for the littles.
My girl will never forget her Aunt Jess and wearing fake mustaches and fedoras together.
True to her last wishes, those she loved had a final party together with her in a hospital waiting room. Despite terrible pain, she looked around and positively beamed at those she loved. That was, hmmm, maybe forty of us? For a hospital it was a BIG party.
Courage club members care about others even in the middle of their own suffering.
Her phone was always filled with messages. Other cancer patients were continually calling her. They knew she would find time and an encouraging word to give them
Then there was Beau. Early twenties with end stage cancer. At this point most of his friends had disappeared. Not Jess. With help, she planned his final birthday party at the hospital. It was the last birthday she planned.
She excitedly told me how she had told more people about Jesus in her last year, all because of “blessed cancer” as she nicknamed it.
Courage club members never give up hope!
Hope spurred her on for four years of stage 4 aggressive cancer. She never made it to the last specialist she planned to see. Her liver failed. But her hope hadn’t.
She admitted to me after Beau died that she was scared. It was the only time I ever heard her say that. It was probably her realization that her own brave fight was almost over, though neither of us could bear to admit it at the time.
Her motto was, With God, nothing is impossible. We shared a love for Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward. She was smiling at the future, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.
I wrote the following post in the middle of this four year cancer fight.
I really had no idea how MUCH I would need to keep up my own courage.
You see, at the same time Jess was dying, my own chronically ill husband was diagnosed with cancer.
Turned out to be stage 3. We’re facing a second surgery soon.
Unfortunately much of our fight this year has been with a broken medical system on top of fighting cancer and chronic pain.
It has been stressful, horrendous, and courage-sucking. We’ve felt like cogs in a broken gear system. We’ve even been shamed for courageously bucking the system and fighting for compassionate, prompt care.
A few caring docs along the way have brightened our path. We’re SO grateful for those. They are bright spots of compassion. Compassion is often sorely lacking in the medical field.
Compassion ought to be the number one requirement for every tech, office worker, nurse assistant, doctor, and nurse.
Courage club members learn compassion for the suffering.
Jesus showed compassion all along his earthly journey. He came to “show us the Father.” He touched the hurting that many despised.
He demonstrated ultimate compassion in laying down His life as the sin-sacrifice.
His courage spurred Him on to the cross. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.”
Are you a part of the Courage Club? Let’s lift each other up in prayer this week, and keep up your courage, Dear Heart!
Sis, thanks for giving me such big footprints to follow. You continue to inspire me, and your legacy of love and compassion fuels my fire to keep loving and living forward. Till I see you again…