He knows where the hurt is the deepest,
The tears of the night and the day,
And whispering softly, “I Love You”,
He brushes the teardrops away.
As my friend Merri gasped for her last breath of air in the hospital bed, surrounded by all those who loved her deeply, the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve mantra played in my mind. If only I had realized that the time left with my dear friend here on earth was quickly passing by on New Year’s eve as I wallowed in my grief.
I’ll never forget the New Year’s Eve of 2008 when our close circle of friends gathered together at Merri and Darin’s house to hear what the prognosis for her reoccurring cancer was, according to the oncologolist’s latest findings. The breast cancer which had reared its ugly head six years ago, was back in our dear friend’s body with a vengeance. Not only did she have cancer in her breastbone, it had also metastasized into her lymph nodes and pelvis. Then came the dreaded word…terminal.
The doctor must be mistaken. Why would God take a good person like Merri before she could reap the results of her labor as a loving mother and wife? She wanted to see her girls walk down the aisle someday soon and transform her into a doting Grandma. “It just isn’t fair”, said Merri. She had paid her dues in life by sacrificing many material comforts as a stay-at-home mom so her kids could be raised with a mother’s tender touch, going through the tough years when teenagers test their limits, battling breast cancer and ultimately passing the “survivors” five-year milestone marker. Overcoming the next test of faith when her husband lost his job from which he had worked at for over twenty years. She had endured all those trials; surely God had better plans for her.
After the initial shock of the prognosis wore off, my first thoughts were how would we get her through this? Last time her bout with cancer had seemed to go so smoothly. She had appeared to handle it beautifully and didn’t need much outside help. This time I would be there for her. My first step was to take her to her initial radiation treatment, accompanied by another close friend. She seemed to be gasping for air as she sat in the backseat, even though the oxygen machine was doing its best to assist her with breathing.
As time carried on, phone calls to the house seemed to bear the same response. “Well, now is not a good time to visit. She is finding it hard to stay awake after taking all the painkillers. Maybe tomorrow. “ If only I had known that we had so little time left before God would call her home. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. Why didn’t I insist on stopping by to tell her I loved her and have the courage to ask her if she was right with God? In spite of being friends for twenty-five years, you just didn’t question each other’s beliefs. It was unspoken knowledge that we were Christians. She had heard the Word from her preacher father’s lips. Surely she had accepted Christ.
Amidst all these regrets, I heard a gentle voice reassuring me that there was no earthly way of knowing how long God would give us with her yet. She knew how much I cared for her and treasured our friendship. Again, the gentle voice reminded me that my actions would not have changed God’s plan to call her home. Lastly, God reassured me with his promises found in Exodus 33:14 which Merri had written in her own handwriting on a piece of paper as she was suffering through the ravages of cancer, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
No more regrets! Merri was now free from her pain and home with her Maker. God had given me an answer to my prayers and now I could replace the tears of sadness with tears of joy
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