I had the most amazing experience today. Have you ever wondered what your purpose is and if you are doing what it is that God has called you to do? I often ponder that question and hope that I am following His voice. Less than a year ago, my husband and I were restationed in Alaska. At that time, I knew that we were coming here to support our friend Virginia and her terminally ill husband Bill. He’d been battling leukemia for ten years and had outlived the initial 2-3 month prognosis doctors had given him. I was so grateful for the opportunity to give back to them.
We’ve been stationed here before ten years earlier. During that time, I’d met and been supported by Bill & Virginia. During the difficult dark times, they were God’s hands and feet in my life. Before Brad deployed, Bill told my husband “We will take care of her” and they quite simply did. They let me crash at their house with my one year old during deployments. They were my second string during those lonely, single mother moments when it all seemed to be too much and the sun never rose during the winter. When I went into pre-term labor at twenty weeks, Virginia fought her phobia of hospitals and stayed by my bed until Brad returned home. She was the one with whom my daughter stayed the night Jonathan was born. Bill and Virginia have been woven into the tapestry of my life.
Each time Bill was hospitalized with infection and sepsis, he fought with all he had. Bill, in many ways, was a stubborn old coot. He refused to give up and his will power was amazing. He was absolutely indomitable. Last week, Bill became septic again. He’d gone through a period where even weekly transfusions of blood were ineffective and he was continually needing infusions of platelets. This particular time, the doctors didn’t seem to think he would get to go home again. Indeed, at one point Bill even verbalized that he knew he was dying. That was the first admission he had ever made in all these many years. His condition worsened and ultimately, the doctors withdrew the multitude of medicines used to control his Congestive Heart Failure and other conditions. They even ceased the antibiotic which was not proving effective. The doctors provided palliative care using morphine and atavan to do their best to keep him comfortable.
I’d been panicked that I might not be there when he died and in so doing fail my dear friend Virginia. I certainly wouldn’t want to be alone when my husband was dying. Her friend Gene spent four days at the hospital with her, sleeping in those miserable ‘recliners’ and acting as her gatekeeper. I was able to stay Friday night and Sunday night, but still needed to race home and take the kids. Last night, I was unable to go and I only had two hours this afternoon to check in on Virginia.
I arrived at the hospital to find that the morning had been terrible. Virginia was in the hall trying to pull herself together. Seeing Bill struggle so hard to draw a breath was causing her intense grief. Gene was with Bill making sure that he would not be alone in his last moments, once again protecting his friend.
For some reason, I felt compelled to enter Bill’s room. For once, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do and that allowed me to overcome any fears I had. In that moment, I felt God telling me to pray, and so I did. Out loud. I prayed that Jesus would send his angels to bring Bill home. Then, I felt prompted to sing, so I sang the Lord’s prayer (rather badly) in the quiet of the room. Bill opened his eyes! At that moment, I spoke to him telling him, “Bill we are here. It is okay to let go. We will take care of Virginia just as you took care of us while Brad was in the Gulf. It is time to go home.” I stroked his hair and Gene and I talked to him. Bill closed his eyes again. Then, I sang Amazing Grace and continued caressing his head as I sang. At the end of the song, Bill drew two more breaths and then left his body.
All of this time, I had been worried about being there for Virginia, but clearly God also had me there, in that moment, for Bill. I felt God’s presence so very clearly in that room. He was there and I believe that I saw a miracle today! I think I’ve had a limited view of what a miracle is….like a miracle is only limited to when God ‘comes through’ by healing someone. Today I saw a different kind of miracle. The love and grace that God would have to come and carry someone home.
Oddly, rather than feeling freaked out, I have felt complete peace and assurance all day. I know that this strength is provided by God. I am so grateful in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot about God today. Our God is the God who notices when a sparrow drops to the ground. He is the God who cares when a dying man is struggling to breathe, and he is the God who set Bill free from his earthly confines today.
Bill didn’t die today. He left for home. God is good, even in the moments of deep grief. He is good even to those who are left behind.