Last week, I was called back to my doctor’s office after a test during a physical exam returned with some suspicious results. I thought I was to simply do a repeat of the initial test, but instead was led to the surgical room for a biopsy. My doctor tends to be fairly laid back and said he wasn’t too worried but wanted to follow through just in case.
Of course, it’s always the “just in case” that catches you. I’ve been called back before, so this wasn’t my first cancer scare. It was my third. But the number isn’t as important as my inward response and how it’s changed each time.
The last call-back happened about a year ago. I’d recently lost a friend to cancer, and the thought that I might go through something similar frightened me. I could feel the panic rising up within me the closer I came to my appointment. My husband was out of town for the follow-up, so I felt even more alone in my thoughts and couldn’t help but ponder how my children would do without a mother.
This time around, another friend had recently passed. But instead of allowing that to increase my panic, I had a different reaction. There were a few fleeting moments of worry, but even more pervasive was an inward calm, and I realized that if the news were bad, I would be readier to hear it now.
I’m happy to say the results were benign. For that, I rejoice! Even so, it’s been interesting for me to realize that death no longer scares me like it once did. That’s not to say I’m jumping at the chance to make a hasty exit from this world. No, I love my life, and I don’t want my children, husband, friends and extended family to carry that burden. But as I work to abandon my will to make way for God’s in all things, I realize that the timing of my earthly cessation is not in my hands. And if my time were to come, those who love me would be okay. My role as mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend would not cease, even if it would change.
Certainly, the recent passing of my friends Ryan and Roberta have had a great deal to do with my new sense of calm. Both were incredibly faith-filled to the end, and their examples of dying inspired me greatly. So I couldn’t help but think this past week, “If Roberta could do this, if Ryan could do this, so could I.”
It’s somewhat akin to when I was going through my first pregnancy alongside a friend who also was experiencing her first pregnancy. She delivered first, and I remember talking to her on the phone a few days later, asking, “Was it as bad as you thought it would be?” “Worse,” she replied, and yet she had survived it, and she had a new, precious son at her side. Life had conquered suffering.
Death no longer feels like a far-off event. But I’ve also witnessed how life continues on. Recently, I attended a birthday celebration of the husband of my friend Laura, who died in 2000. Yes, there is still a bittersweetness that hangs in the air whenever her dear ones gather, but there is also a vibrant, palpable sense of LIFE. I’ve witnessed the carrying on of children and spouses of these dear people, and I realize death’s hold, no matter how difficult, is still very fleeting.
Before I received the good news on Wednesday, I had the distinct thought that God is preparing me for something special. Over the last several years, I’ve received a great amount of healing. All the work that has led to the healing is beginning to manifest itself in numerous life-giving ways. So my specific thought was, “God is preparing me for something special; either to be carried out here on earth or in heaven.” And I felt excited, because I knew that wherever God would bring me, it would be incredible.
I realize if ever the tests are different and my ending time does come sooner than later, I’ll have a lot to process and it won’t be so simple. But for now, I feel a sense of surrender I’ve not felt before. This latest “test” revealed some new things to me about myself and where I’m at interiorly.
I’m so happy to know that I have at least another day with you all, and am delighted to think it could be even longer than that. What a Christmas gift! But being aware of a new inward peace that had not been present earlier, a peace I could have drawn on had the results been different, was a wondrous feeling.
Q4U: What about you? Do you feel ready to die? If not, what do you feel you need to do first?