“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22).
e had just enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with our children and grandchildren, and now at the end of January my husband and I were preparing to be at the home of our daughter Debra to watch the Super Bowl, as we had done in years past.
All this changed when Debra called us on Friday, the week before, crying in pain and asking us to take her to the emergency room. My husband stayed with her preschooler. The other three children—Benjamin, Natalie, and Raleigh—were at school. Debra’s husband, Kris, was working out of town and wouldn’t be home until evening.
Debra had been treated that week for what the doctor thought was a bladder infection, but she was getting worse instead of better. When we got to the emergency room, tests showed that Debra had a cyst on her ovary that needed surgery that evening. Doctors also saw a mass they couldn’t identify. Her gynecologist told me of her plans to talk to Debra after her surgery, and I took that to mean that she would possibly have to have further surgery, maybe a hysterectomy.
Debra came home the next morning but couldn’t seem to rest comfortably. A few days later Kris found her on the floor writhing in agony. We rushed to their home just minutes after Kris’s frantic call. He took her to the hospital while we stayed with the children.
More tests and scans showed that there was indeed a large mass on the back of Debra’s uterus, which was also connected to her colon and the base of her lungs. As the doctor explained what he saw we couldn’t believe what we were hearing. I kept looking at Debra’s face. What was going to happen to my beautiful daughter, only 35 years old?
Debra was a vegetarian, she worked out, she did all the right things to stay healthy. She was the one who told her dad and me to be more careful about our diets. She didn’t want anything to happen to us. I’d had a double bypass surgery four years before, and her dad experienced a mild heart attack a few years back.
Debra had more surgery, this time much more serious. The doctor did a complete hysterectomy and removed any signs of the dreaded cancer. As bad as this all was, we hoped that with the latest medications and chemotherapy we would all be able to go back to normal life.
After recuperating for three weeks in the hospital Debra was home for two days. When she went to the doctor’s office to have the staples in her incision removed, she was again in great pain. A scan revealed two more large tumors in her abdomen. The doctor admitted her back into the hospital.
Debra was in terrible pain; she needed oxygen almost constantly and couldn’t eat. I tried not to cry in front of her; her sisters kept reminding me to stay positive. But one day Deb caught me crying quietly in the corner of her room and called me over.
I held her and told her that this awful thing should have happened to me. But she quickly said, “No, Mom, it happened to me, and we’ll beat this thing together.”
Our three other daughters and two sons rallied around their sister. Friends, church members, pastors sat with the kids, provided food for the family, and spent countless hours in prayer and visitation.
Debra had one round of chemotherapy. The medications made her sick or groggy, so she had an epidural to control the pain. We thought we would lose her that week, but we knew there were prayers being said for her all over the country and we hoped for a miracle.
Within two weeks Debra mysteriously rallied. We thought our prayers had been answered. If she wasn’t completely healed, we thought more treatments might help.
God gave us one good week with her. But then her back started hurting and got worse every day. She needed oxygen again. We could read the signs in the nurses’ eyes as we realized it was not going to be long.
Living the Unthinkable
Early one Wednesday morning at the end of March we were called to the hospital. They had put Debra on a respirator because her lungs were no longer functioning. Kris had promised Deb he would do everything to keep her alive, but the doctor explained that the respirator was the only thing keeping her alive.
When we agreed the respirator should be removed, Debra was gone.
I looked around. I felt like I was in a drama of some kind; and none of what I saw or felt was real.
Our family had a hard time accepting the fact that Deb wasn’t with us anymore. We were with her in the hospital day and night; we were there when she died; at her service in her home church; at the cemetery; at a memorial for her in New England, where she was raised.
For months I cried every time I thought of her and her four children, who now had to grow up without their wonderful mother. It hurt so much.
My husband is loving and supportive. We still had five wonderful children and 14 beautiful grandchildren to live for. I asked myself again and again, Why can’t I stop crying and wishing I had died instead of my Debra?
Going to church was hard. Hearing the beautiful hymns with all their promises hurt; sermons about heaven hurt; the promises of Christ’s coming hurt. None of this was going to happen soon enough to relieve the anguish I felt.
I Give Up
I prayed that God would reach out to me and hold me while I tried to sort out the confusion and sorrow I felt. Self-pity and sentimentality, along with my grief, had set in and made my condition worse.
He must have been holding me with all His might. One night, when I felt as if I could no longer hang on, I finally gave it all up to Him as I agonized and prayed to live no longer as I had been living.
What Do You Think?
1.When have you experienced a personal tragedy so wrenching you feared you might lose your hold on God?
2. What feelings kep you from being aware of God's love and care?
3. What were some of the spiritual realities upon which you anchored your soul?
4. How would you counsel those who find themselves being crushed by some tragedy? What actions might accompany such counsel?
I woke up the next morning feeling rested with a wonderful peace in my heart. He is definitely my Savior, my Comforter, my Refuge, and my wonderful Father who told me a long time ago, “Give it to Me, My child; I can handle it.”
There were sad times, tough times when I saw Debra’s children going on without her; but somehow we got through it.
I go to church, I sing the hymns and believe them, I listen to the sermons and relish the thought that God speaks to me in His “still small voice.” The sanctuary music makes me homesick for heaven. I knew all this before, but I feel it now.
Yes, my Lord Jesus is coming soon. He will welcome our Debra, my family, and me into the place He has prepared for us.
Come, Lord Jesus, and thank You for being my dearest friend and giving me the peace that passes all understanding.
Pauline Beaulieu, now retired, lived in Cleveland, Tennessee.