The Last Couple of Weeks
November 6, 2013
Well. The last couple of weeks have been a bit much.
On Thursday nearly two weeks ago, I got an email in the morning from the church who wants to hire me in Canada. The Canadian government had finally gotten to my visa application and there was an error in the way the job had originally been posted. The process would need to be restarted, which means a delay of about another three months.
On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from my mom, telling me that my brother’s wife Sando was leaving the Mayo Clinic. At age 31, her leukemia which was diagnosed in March, was totally resistant to the seven months of chemo she had gone through, and their best option at this point was hospice care. She would go home and likely only had a few days to live.
A bit much.
On Saturday morning I flew home to Minnesota and my mom and I drove up to Detroit Lakes, where my brother Wayne lives. He and Sando had been married a year and a half, but there is already a family — her four children from previous marriage. We went to visit, and Sando was in the middle of doing “spa treatments” for her 7-year-old daughter, Harmony. Sando was short of breath, even just sitting on the couch, her hair gone, her body swollen from her medication, and dark circles under her eyes. But she painted Harmony’s toes, put cucumbers on her eyes, and even gave her a hot stone massage — intent on creating a memory for her little girl with the moments she had left.
On Sunday, the sun was shining, and Sando wanted to take family pictures. She put on makeup, her wig and a bright red coat, and we all went out to a park. I snapped photos of her with her kids, her with Wayne, her with other family members who had come to visit. She directed the shots — she knew who she wanted gathered together. Again, she was out of breath and in pain, but she was determined to take these pictures with those closest to her.
Only a little more than a year ago, she was taking pictures with my brother at their wedding. Now pictures again, but this time a plastic pill organizer with all of her medication stuck out of my brother’s pocket.
On Monday, Sando began to let go. When we went over in the afternoon, she was in her room, and barely able to open her eyes. Each breath she took included a moan, and her breathing got raspier and more burdened as the day went on, her lungs filling with fluid. She no longer spoke or responded. Hospice care was now there permanently, trying to make her comfortable in her last moments. We prayed with her, thanking Jesus for saving her, for loving her and her kids so much, and praying for peace and comfort. We asked Him to be her strength and shield, that our hearts would trust in Him and be helped.
Around 10:30 that night, her breathing slowed down and quieted. She slumped into the arms of her brother. Her heart stopped beating. We are thankful that she had come to understand her need for Jesus — the salvation he brought her through His death and resurrection. We are thankful that her hope was secure in Him. And the restoration that was started when Jesus came, will continue. Like I mentioned before, one day all will be made right. Death has been swallowed up in victory. It does not get to win.
The hardest part has been seeing those who are so sad because of this loss. The kids who have to grapple with the loss of their mom. My baby brother who no longer has his wife to talk to.
But what has been beautiful in all of this, is to see the kindness demonstrated by family, friends and strangers. Cards, flowers, meals, money, prayers — people are demonstrating what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself.
When I found out about the delay in my work visa, I was devastated and discouraged. I still am. I likely will not be moving to Canada until the end of January, and that stretch of time is difficult. It is hard to constantly live out of a suitcase, to not get a regular paycheck. Andrew is coming to visit this weekend, and I am so grateful. We haven’t seen one another in over two months, and it is hard to stay connected, to keep a relationship strong with someone a thousand miles away.
I still don’t understand why this delay had to be so long. However, I am so, so grateful I can be in Minnesota right now. I am glad I can spend time with Wayne and the kids. I am grateful to give hugs and play games and eat supper all together. I am thankful for a chance to reconnect with my brother in a real and tangible way.
It has been a lot for everyone. But in the sadness and confusion, we press on, trusting that God is good, that He is loving, that He is worthy.
Even when it’s a bit much.