Heaven is wonderful
God's grace in inoperable cancer
Sister Lynda of The Sisters of Jesus Way
Sister Lynda died on May 13th 2011. She wished to contribute her story of facing up to the pain of losing her life and how she moved from distress to peace. Her hope is that her experience will help someone else as they face their own mortality.
The Sisters are linked to St.Mary's Upton and the Diocese of Chester.
God’s grace is sufficient
On January 12th I was given the devastating news that I had cancer. Shock wave after shock wave rolled over me. An operation followed and it was discovered that my cancer was inoperable. At a follow up appointment I was told not only that the cancer had spread but that it was aggressive, it would move quickly. In that overwhelming moment the words which Jesus called out from the cross came readily to my mind, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” I realised that I was being given my first glimpse into what it really means to share in the fellowship of his sufferings.
As we drove nearer home from this devastating appointment I caught sight of our beautiful, beloved estuary and I promptly burst into tears. The thought had come into my mind –I love to see this estuary and I long to see it many times more but now there is a distinct possibility that I won’t. That was followed by another anguished thought – if I go to heaven soon I shall have to wait a long time before I see my dear ones again and I don’t think I can bear it.” At 47 years of age I desperately wanted to live. There is nothing wrong in this. God has given us so many precious people to love and so many things to enjoy in life. They become even more beautiful and precious when there is the likelihood that they will be taken away. Also, as someone pointed out to me that very day, the desire to be alive and on this earth, is not to be derided – it is God’s gift. I was feeling a little guilty that I quite honestly didn’t possess the burning passion/desire to go to heaven. That is also a gift of God I’m coming to realise.
On Monday 14th February Bishop Peter called by in the afternoon. He is gifted in putting things clearly – theologically. I found his certainty in the resurrection (of the body) and life after death rock-likingly reassuring. He wasn’t afraid to speak about death, my death… He assured me, gazing at me most directly that I would be given the grace to come through, and that I would be alright, whatever that might mean. He said, whatever our age, we are all children of the heavenly FATHER – whether we are 6, 47, 70 etc. Whenever we die, we die as a “child of the FATHER”. Life is a journey towards God. The very reason we are given this life is so that we can journey towards God. He felt sure that my sense of remoteness from God was the shock and it will lift in time and that I will know him near, because he is near.
Special communion service this morning – the Sisters were gathered in my room. Graeme chose the passage – the raising of Lazarus- and looked closely at Jesus’ question, especially to Martha – “Do you believe this?” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (I want to give my resounding “yes, Lord, I believe!!)
Poems by Mother Eva of Friedenshort – simple –speaking to my heart.
(These are written out in German –the themes are yielding/surrender and trust).
“In Nacht und Todesgrauen,
Denn seine Liebe lässt uns nicht.”
It translates –
"In night and dread of death,
then his love does not leave us."
A day of “variety” – this is how one could describe yesterday. 23rd February was the day 20 years ago that I made my Bridal Consecration - giving my “yes” to JESUS to be his Bride. Many times I have been unfaithful but he has overflowed in faithfulness towards me. Polycarp’s Feast Day (an early Church Father and a martyr who was killed because he refused to blaspheme Christ) was yesterday, too - I felt his fatherly smile upon me. It was also my first appointment with an oncologist – a long, long wait and a long, long appointment. Daunting, challenging, very slim chance of a cure with chemotherapy (this hit hard) – but prolongs life. Everything within me cries, “If it is possible, please take this cup from me …” But the FATHER is waiting for my “Yes”.
The hospital was cold, clinical, medical – and there I lose hold of the fact that I’m a child of the Kingdom of God. With God in the equation there is always hope! Encouraging reading in my Losungen (a German devotional book Lynda used) this morning, “The very hairs of your head are numbered. Don’t be afraid.” I will lose all my hair very early on. JESUS is saying – you are completely and utterly “known” (as St John would use the word – intimately) – Do you believe this, not do you feel it?
When the time nears for me to leave this earthly life (and it might not be too far off now) the Holy Trinity will draw near in love – the Eternal will become a far greater reality than the existent earthly present. I am therefore not to be afraid.
Lynda’s own writing stops at this point. On Friday April 15th she was told that a scan had revealed that the chemotherapy had not worked. Her comment was, “I felt the peace of God enfold me and his presence with me. I heard the Father saying to me, that everything would be OK.” She had taken her first step on the heavenly journey. Heaven became a reality and she longed to be there. So much so that when Graeme (her Vicar) asked her one day not long before she died on May 13th what word came to mind when she thought about heaven. She thought for awhile and then said, “Wonderful”.