Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winner & A Deep Question

First, the question.

How does a mother prepare her young children for her own death while still grasping for a miracle? By the mere work of preparing for death, do we forfeit the miracle God might have provided if we had only just believed fully, intentionally, without a speck of doubt, that it was His will for us to be cured?

These are questions I've grappled with in the past, and once again find myself asking in the midst of news discovered during this past Sunday's service. I have asked myself many times why my husband's mother never informed her sons about her grave condition. From what I know, she knew well in advance of her death that her days were severely limited, and yet her death came as a complete shock to my husband, and likely his brother, too. I've never asked my husband's brother about this. He's far too fragile a man to ask, so I suspect he had no idea either.

For either of them, would the pain of losing their mother have been any easier if she'd have talked to them about what was to come? If she'd let them know that each visit they made to the hospital may have truly been the last time they'd get to talk with her, hold her, tell her they loved her, would their mourning process have been healthier, easier on them had she been open with them about her condition? Did she not have so much love to pour out on them to last them their lifetimes, but held back in seeking a divine miracle? That's the only explanation I have. She must have refused to accept the possibility of her imminent death, in belief that she'd be granted a miracle. Otherwise, surely she would have at least written her sons a letter filled with love and hope for their future. If she thought they were too young to speak of death to them at ages ten and twelve, then wouldn't a letter have been the least she could do for closure? After all, they'd already suffered the death of their father five years earlier. They'd experienced great loss once already in their short lives. I can only imagine how she must have clung to the belief of a miracle of healing. That God wouldn't leave her boys orphaned on this earth, that she'd endured enough heartache with the death of her husband, and that her sons had endured enough heartache already that God wouldn't take her just yet--submersing them into further heartache. Not yet, for the sake of her boys, I'm sure she clung to the belief that God would intervene with a miracle of healing her cancerous body.

But He didn't. She passed away without ever saying final heartfelt words to her boys either in person, or in a letter.

Surely God does not deny us His desire, even a healing miracle, because we strive to prepare our loved ones for what might be. I've seen the heartache that lingers decades after a death that loved ones could have been forewarned about, and am convinced that if I knew my condition was grave, I'd not deny it to my family. Oh, I'd be praying, seeking that miracle, but even if I knew that I would forfeit a possible miracle by preparing my children, I'd still prepare. Because that's all a miracle is before it's delivered.

Only a possibility.

We have no way of knowing what is God's will. But I do know that my children are worth more than my life, and leaving them with final words, final acts of love, for them to cherish all their life, is a miracle in itself that God provides just by giving us notice that our days on this earth are severely numbered. Is it not a gift we need to accept, no matter how difficult?

What would you do if you were told your days were numbered, but fought for God's miracle of healing? It's not an easy question. And what is right for one, would not work for another, depending on the individual's faith walk. It's not something we like to think about. But it does make me ponder creating/updating those letters to be hidden deep within the file cabinet. Does it you?

Okay, now that I've cried a tub full, onto the winner of Erica Vetsch's The Bartered Bride.

Congratulations, G.R.I.T.S!!! I've sent you an email, please email me your snail mail address. Thanks to all who entered!

Surrendering to Him,


23 Days until we widely celebrate Jesus's Birthday on Christmas Day around the World!


Katie Ganshert said...

Wow...what a post to ponder on. Deep thinking on this Wednesday morning. Actually got my creativity going in all kinds of fast-forward motion.

I would prepare my family. I would write a letter and say my goodbyes verbally too.

You are so right. Our days are numbered. Makes me want to live intentionally.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Katie, we know we're truly writers when things as difficult as this make us think of how we might use it in a book. I've actually contemplated writing a story with a comparison between families who were prepared verses one's left in the dark. Also from the dying members perspective of why they chose denial over preparing. But because it's so close to home, I've not done it yet.

Tabitha Bird said...

I actually talk about death with my husband a lot. My earth that is. I am not dying of anything that I know of yet, but I want my husband to know how I would want him to preceed in the days immediately after my death. My wishes are known. And during those conversations we confirm our love for each other, but or trust that our days are in God's hands. So if I knew I was dying I would prepare myself and those around me as best I could. Then I would believe for a miracle.

Heather Sunseri said...

Wow, Eileen! I'm not sure I can come up with a well-thought out answer to that so early, but I hope that I prepare my family for such a horrible predicament a little each day with our walk in faith. But if I knew death was imminent, I definitely would make sure I said good-bye in some meaningful way that would help them to heal.

Rebecca Nazar said...

I'd prepare my family as best I could, but yikes, I'll confess I'm ill at ease just reflecting on the possibility even fleetingly.

Very thoughtful post. Thank you.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Those are some tough questions. I think I'd want to prepare my family, but I can understand the part of someone that might think they'd be better off not knowing until the last minute.

Joanne said...

What a sad story! I can only think that their mother was in some way trying to spare her children more pain. Maybe she thought their not knowing bought them a few more days of peace? I'm with you though. There's strength and love to be found in openness, and the truth.

Jessica Nelson said...

That's so sad. :-(

I would definitely write my children a letter. I don't think that would negate my faith.

I hope you have a happy day today!

Bess said...

How sad! My heart aches for your husband. I don't believe preparing your family for your death is a bad thing. I mean, I don't think being honest about what could be your death will stop the sending of a miracle. And just think...if you do tell others that you are dying and God stills sends the miracle...then that many more people bear witness to God's amazing power. If you don't tell anyone of the seriousness of your situation and God heals you, only you witness His might. Does that make sense? Either way, I feel bad for your husband, his brother, and the agony his mother must have faced in leaving her children.

Terri Tiffany said...

I am so sorry that this event is so fresh in your heart today. Is something still going on that brings it up? Is there still alot of unresolved pain from it? We never know why people do what they do but I can bet their mother loved them so much she was sparing them pain she thought. What mother wouldn't? Especially having lost their father before that. I pray they can focus on the love she had for them and let go of the other doubts that Satan sure wants to put in their head.
My heart is so so sorry and sad for what they had to go through.

Tamika: said...

I think our responsibility begins now preparing our children for death. We all have to leave here, and only God knows the time. But giving them the hope that what awaits us id better than our minds can grapple will be hope.

Telling them we will be waiting for them there and watching them with love means more than a wordless goodbye.

Patti Lacy said...

The Journey Home: Finishing with Joy covers this very topic, Eileen. To me, it's a must read for all Christians.

When we accepted Christ as Savior, our eternal life began. Oh, what a witness I have through two friends, one who's finished "the most exciting trip of her life (to heaven) and one who is one the road.

The families actually CELEBRATED and are celebrating the passing as just a long hiatus where much can be done and learned.

Buy this book NOW! It changed MY life and with God's help, will change my death.


Anna Scott Graham said...

A very intriguing post. I completely agree with you, that for all my faith, it's not in my hands to so assume God's will to exclude messages of love to those closest to me.

Even with young children there is a place for honesty. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is there is a purpose for ALL THINGS, even those we perceive as bad or meaningless. In that, I take great comfort that in my limited view, His plan and will are far superior, and that which seems terrifying is really only another door to His love.

Ta love for this thought-provoking start to the morning...

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Terri, you asked why this is so fresh now, it's because we just learned at church of a member with inoperable brain cancer. It's come back again. She has two young children and it just reminded me of what my husband went through, only he had no idea his mother was dying. Phil is fine now, oh, there are days, anniversary of her death, that bring back so many questions for him. Questions I know he could have had answers to years ago had she done some preparing.

It just really makes you think of your responsibilities in this life, even the ones we want so badly to dismiss.

I can't imagine my husband being any better a father or husband had he been prepared and been able to say goodbye to his mother, but it sure would have saved him a lot of a different kind of heartache--not knowing why she chose that path of denial without any final type of good bye.

Diane said...

I don't think there is any "right" answer to your question. My mother died a year ago with a similar cancer story still trying to believe for her miracle. We did see her but not talk about it with her because we wanted to keep faith words out there. Thank you for sharing your story. :O)

Georgiana Daniels said...

Oh my. Deep thoughts this morning. I'm certain of one thing: there's not a standard answer since everyone's situation is vastly different. Sorry to hear about the person in your church. It's truly heartbreaking.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, tough subject. I have a neighbor whose mom was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has been given a 3 months to live. I tried to put myself in her situation. There would be so much I would want to say and convey to the people I love. Like you said, I think that would be a great gift to leave with them.

Natalie said...

Well, you've got me in tears. With very young children I almost wonder if it would be better not to let them know very far in advance. They may as well enjoy the time with their mom instead of worrying when she's going to die. Of course when it's imminent it would be right to tell them. I think the letters are a great idea. I'd just want to leave them knowing that they are the most important people in my life and that I'll love them forever.

Janna Leadbetter said...

Eileen, it's a question I've never allowed myself to think, for it breaks my heart to imagine myself in such a place with my little ones. But you've brought up a fresh and important perspective, and now I'll have to consider it. I think being prepared is always what's best, don't you?

Erica Vetsch said...

It's so hard to say what we would or wouldn't do when faced with a situation like this. I would hope I would prepare my family as best I could.

Having just been through all of this with my own MIL, I've learned anew that everyone handles grief differently, and that the person who is ravaged by cancer goes through a grieving process too.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Eileen, we went through something similar with a member of our church last year. I agree with your thoughts about telling your loved ones. God will definitely bring a miracle if that's his will but it also helps to have that extra support and prayer from family. And, it gives you that extra time to spend it with your family.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I can understand why she'd want to protect her children, but I know the pain from not knowing is so great. I'm so sorry your husband had to experience that.

Congrats to GRITS!

Jill Kemerer said...

This is a tough subject. I feel terrible for your husband and brother. While many will not agree with me, I believe in honesty. Twelve and ten are old enough for those kids to have been given the truth, and it might have helped their healing process if she showed them that respect. But, we do live in a different time, now, so I can't judge.

Anita said...

The older I get, the more I realize and accept the mysteries of life; why people act and respond so differently.
My condolences to you and your family.

Susan R. Mills said...

Well, you really got me thinking with this one. I think I'd talk to my children. Like you said, they are far more important than my life.

Robyn Campbell said...

I am sorry that she left them in that condition. It definitely didn't help them. Only hurt them. I suppose she thought she was doing the best thing for them. But clearly it wasn't. I would want everyone to know. I would have things that I needed to say.

And this really got me to thinking. It's hard to place myself in her shoes, but I would not make the same decision she did.

I am going to write letters. To all six boys, the one girl and the hubby too. To be read in the event of my death. Thanks for this post.

Lillian Robinson said...

Been there, done that. In 2001 I was diagnosed with 4th stage lymphoma. It was very hard for me to tell my daughter, even though I believed God would heal me. I worried about her. She had experienced too many deaths, and I knew she would not have the same hope that I had.

I think there is little difference between sharing your journey of hope and preparing for death. It's just a matter of attitude.

Through my personal ordeal, I learned what Jesus meant when He said, "Your faith has healed you."

Tamara (TC) Staples said...

I don't have children, but I would want to prepare my family (husband, brother, sister) the best that I could. I do not believe that precludes receiving a miracle. I feel for your husband and his brother. How horrible to lose both parents at such a young age.

Julie Dao said...

Someone asked me a question once: if I were going to die in one month's time, would I want to know about it? I think my answer to that question - and to yours - would be yes. I think I would appreciate the chance to savor each day and embrace things that I'd normally take for granted. I would want to know if my loved ones were in the same situation. But everyone deals with their grief in different ways - maybe your mother-in-law believed that she could protect her children from grieving before they needed to.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

My comments would be too long for this venue. If you'd like to communicate by email, please let me know.

susanjreinhardt (at) gmail (dot) com


Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, Eileen. How sad this makes me for your DH and BIL. I lost my Daddy when I was ten, and it was a shock to our family. It has made me a compassionate person as a result.

If I knew my days were numbered? I would pray like crazy for healing, but still use every moment to love those around me extravagantly. I would tell them what was going on, so their little hearts would not break in two from shock.

Audience of ONE

Tara McClendon said...

I've been around people in this situation, and sometimes they just can't function like they would under other circumstances. I'm sure she wanted to know the right thing to do and to say. I know I'd want to do the right thing. But if I were actually in that situation, I can't say whether I would mentally or emotionally be thinking along the same congnitive lines as I am now.

Deborah said...

Wow....very deep thoughts, and I guess I haven't spent much time thinking along these lines. I do know eithout a doubt that if I knew that my death was very likely near, I would write all of my children letters. In a way that is what much of my writing is....a way for my kids to know me in a different way than they see me as 'mom'.
Because death very often comes without prior notice, perhaps we should all think about preparing something and updating it regularly.
Thank you for such a thought provoking post.

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Eileen!

Love the new little clip art pictures on your side bar!

I would definitely want to cherish each of the last moments that I have with my children and help prepare them for my death. But then, I have a very open relationship with my children.

Blessings, Eileen!

KelliGirl said...

This is such a tough topic and one I pray I never have to confront. My friend recently passed away from cancer. She has two young daughters. She and her husband kept the daughters informed and eventually had to tell them that mommy was going to die soon. As surreal and heartbreaking as that conversation was, I believe my friend and her husband handled the situation with as much grace and faith as possible. Those of us surrounding the family learned so much by their example.


Kara said...

Eileen, I can't imagine the loss your husband and his brother must have felt at the death of both their parents. I think about these things, then I get depressed and scared so I don't dwell. But the truth is that if I know I'm dying I will want to prepare my loved ones, so many die without the chance to say their last goodbyes. I would consider it a blessing to be able to have that chance:)

Linda Kage said...

I think those thoughts are too deep for me this morning. But I assume everyone has their own reason for being open or keeping something private. I guess they figure their decision is the best for their loved ones at that time and in that situation. Don't really know. Hope I don't ever have to deal with something that tragic though.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Eileen, I really appreciate your post. That is a mysterious decision on a dying mother's part, and I'm sure it has had permanent effects on her sons.

I sometimes think that one of the advantages of blogging is that it leaves a record of our thoughts and feelings. in the event that something unexpected should happen and we should leave this earth without prior notice, our blogs might be a comfort to our loved ones in some way.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Eileen, It is not a secret that every single person on earth is unique. With that comes a different set of coping skills. Some people embrace, others run from life- good or bad. Since we haven't walked in her shoes, I think it is really hard to know what she felt. I believe it wasn't easy whatever happened. Just my opinion.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hey Eileen,

This topic has touched a nerve. I think everyone can relate in some way.

A year and a half ago, I lost one of my best friends to colon cancer. Katarina was a stay-at-home mother of four beautiful children, and when it became apparent that the cancer would win the race, she handled her upcoming death with as much dignity and courage as I'd ever seen.

She planned her own funeral service, hired a live in housekeeper for her husband and youngest child (older ones at university), gave away as many of her possessions as she could and made sure to write a small letter to everyone that mattered to her. In short, she was amazing.

I still struggle with the whole thing, and why things like this happen, even when I had the world praying for her. I guess I'll figure out the answer one day, but she sure set a great example. Her family was well prepared and knew how much she loved them.

Take care,