Death isn't the way it looks in the movies. Dying from lung cancer isn't, anyway. It was struggle. It was labor. It was groaning. It was holding her up, wiping her mucus and blood, cleaning her drool, kneeling in her urine-soaked sheets, shooting meds down her throat, trying to keep her cool from all the sweat the morphine caused, keeping her calm and breathing as steadily as possible, watching her gasp for air, watching her breathing slowly fade away, seeing her go pale, and feeling her go cold. There is no dignity in death, but there was dignity in the way she was loved, held, cleaned, and cared for. I believe that what my dad did for days and weeks on end honored God and gave me the clearest earthly picture I've ever seen on what it means to truly love someone sacrificially and selflessly.
It seemed that God began to refresh and restore our hearts before Diane was even gone. The simplest of gifts were not taken for granted, and this refreshing came in many forms. It was a gentle breeze that blew threw the bedroom as we sweat and strained to hold her up. It was words of encouragement from family and friends. It was someone just sitting with us, holding her hand, rubbing our backs, sharing our tears. There was so much food, love, and even laughter amidst all the pain. The worse she became, the more beautiful it seemed to get outside. Then she was gone and it seemed that over night the world was completely green, the flowers were blooming, and the sweetest, most fragrant lilacs (her favorite and mine) were blowing through the house. People spoke beautiful words about her and hugged our necks, and then when all the struggle was done and the people were gone, we were faced with that dreaded question, "Now what?"
I felt an abrupt shift, and I'm certain my dad felt it more. He had been taking care of Diane around the clock for so long, living in the chaos that is end-stage cancer, that when everything got quiet, we felt restless. The oxygen machines and bustle of family coming and going was replaced with the quiet lull that is country living, birds singing, woodpeckers pecking, owls hooting, coyotes howling, porch swings creaking... Those are the sounds that make the farm wonderful, and some of the many things Diane always loved about home, but now they seemed a little strange. We did all we could to keep ourselves occupied. We even went out the next day and got my dad a new iPhone (which he is LOVING, by the way).
The restoration process has certainly only just begun, but God has given us so many beautiful and meaningful demonstrations of his goodness to us during this time, not the least of which is the gift of each other (and now, FaceTime). I am confident that, though we may never quite be the same, He has shaped us for his glory, and we have gained much more of Him in our struggle. I pray that as we continue to experience the pain of change, that we would be able to more fully say, "Jesus is all we need."
I have been dwelling in Philippians over the last ten days, and this passage is my greatest joy right now:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.