I am about to be told that I am dying. Yet before this meeting, I already knew it to be true. I sensed it in the brittle cheer of nurses hooking up chemo drips and felt it in the constant throb that pain killers could no longer conceal.
And last night I heard the whisper again. The first time I heard it, I was overcome with fear. But now the voice sounded gentle and filled with a joy that left me—for the duration of my dream—yearning to see His face. Soon you will be with me in paradise.
Dr. Andreros shuffles nervously through my file and clears his throat. It surprises me that an oncologist should struggle to talk of death. Next to me my daughter, Emma, shifts in her seat. I see the fear in her eyes and a breath-stealing pain grips my chest. Not yet, Lord. She still needs me.
“Mrs. Kelly. I have received the results from the blood tests and scan, and am afraid the news is not good.”
I catch words and phrases of his explanation—‘metastasised’, ‘stage four’, ‘lungs and liver’, ‘treatment to prolong your life’—but I am more aware of Emma’s sharp intake of breath and the shaking that has overcome her body. I wish Dr. Andreros would stop speaking, so that I could console her. As I did when she was a child—afraid of the dark—and I would switch on the light and whisper words of comfort. I will tell her about the dream and the gentle voice and she will know that all will be well. But for her it won’t be, will it Lord?
Dr. Andreros is looking at me intently. “Any questions, Mrs. Kelly?”
The obvious one.
“How long do you think I have to live, Doctor?”
“Well, it is always difficult to estimate exactly.” He looks uncomfortable again. “As I said, continued chemo can prolong…”
“How long?” Emma shouts out the question.
“Three to six months, is my best guess.”
There is more discussion: - arrangements to be made; appointments to be organised; paperwork to be completed. I do it all as efficiently as always, although I feel numb. I had known I was dying and thought the words could not hurt me, yet now that the boundaries of my life have been established, I am filled with a fresh wave of fear and grief. Why? Why me? Why now, Lord?
Although Emma objects, I insist that she drops me off at my home. I need to be alone to pray and hear that peaceful voice again.
Two hours later I know what to do. I open a crisp new journal and write the date in the right hand corner.
Every journey has a destination, and I am close to reaching mine. Although death is always around us, we do everything in our power to forget and deny its presence. Yet I want to embrace it, even celebrate it, because in dying I feel strangely alive. There is clarity—a new perspective—that comes with knowing the end is near. I looked at your beautiful face today and knew what was truly important. I have often been driven by the wrong things, yet now (regretfully, only now) I realise that they could never bring me the joy that you do.
Over the next few weeks I will journal my thoughts, for you to take with you on your own journey. Perhaps they will keep you on straighter paths than I have walked. We spend so much time wrestling with ourselves, with each other, even with God. But it need not be this way. We can have peace, Emma, and that is what I have now—peace that does not make sense, a God-given peace.
Last night, I heard God calling me. He said I would be with Him soon. I have known this for a while and yet I fight it with all my might. Why? Why do we fight for life, I wonder, when what lies on the other side promises to be so much better? Is it not because this life—even in the midst of pain and heartache—still carries whispers of laughter and hope and joy?
Remember this Emma, when the encroaching grief tries to snuff the light from your life. Remember that joy, like the sun, will return in the morning. Joy will once more shine through the darkness…even on this side of paradise.
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