I have always pegged Janet as a little spitfire. When I met her at our lung cancer support group, she was about 70 years old, about 90 pounds, fiercely attached to her husband, Ron, proud as could be of her children, and as feisty as Granny Clampett. She gardened, enjoyed her travels to Maine, cooked, and loved to talk about Jesus. And she had cancer. Bad cancer. It had started in her lungs, traveled to her liver, was all over her body, and moving into her brain.
As my husband got comfort care from hospice, Janet was in pain. He begged her to go on hospice, but until the very end, Janet was still getting treatment, and just recently made the transition. Janet’s husband so wanted Janet to live until a promising new cancer zapper piece of equipment could be used on humans. He sent us the link to research it for ourselves. John knew it was doubtful that either he or Janet would be around when this new equipment was finally approved and the two of them talked on the phone several times about who would be the lucky one to get to Heaven first.
But now, his friend Janet is almost there.
I just got off the phone with Janet’s daughter and asked how her mom was doing.
This is what Janet’s daughter told me: She is no longer eating. We have to give her liquid morphine. Once in awhile, she’ll take a little of the water we give her. She is having trouble swallowing. She is barely responding.
I told Janet’s hurting daughter that I was right where she is in these final moments with my own beloved husband two weeks ago today.
This is what I told Janet’s daughter: Don’t’ leave her side. At all.* Take pictures of you holding her hand…just your hands.* Tell her everything you’ve ever wanted to tell her because by all medical accounts, she can still hear you.* Tell her you love her over and over again. Read scriptures to her, because your mom so loves Jesus and they will bring her comfort. Usher her into the throne room of God.* And I told her, even though you’re hurting and you’re losing her, enjoy every single second that she’s still here because in a few days, or a week, or a month you would do anything to have these final moments one more time.
Just one more time. Just one more time to touch John’s cheek, to tell him I love him, to kiss his parched lips, to put the liquid morphine in his mouth to make him more comfortable, to snuggle next to him on his hospital bed, to pull the blankets across his bare chest, to read him his beloved Psalm 139, to tell him what a good husband he’s been, to smooth the wisps of his hair off his forehead, and to hold his warm hand even as it turns cold. I would give up just about anything to do that one more time.
Until I think about him. With Christ. In Heaven. Where the Bible tells us it is “far better”* than where we are now. And I just want to weep with joy for what he has, for all he’s enjoying, for the truths he's learning, for the Savior he's relishing, for being with his parents again, for being in a place that isn’t just better, but “far better.” And for his sake, I’m glad he can’t come back and suffer again even though I would probably be so selfish, that I would want him to.
God forgive me.
And go in peace, dear Janet, our sister. Have a nice chat with John up there. I hope Ron and I will get to sit and enjoy some more of his homemade biscotti with the two of you soon!
Advice that was passed down to me:
*Don’t leave his side. At all! (Pastor Tim Holt)
*Take pictures of his hands. (Maura Zagrans)
*Hearing is the last sense to go. (Hospice Nurse Joe)
*Usher him into the Throne Room of God. (Teresa Holt)
*It is "Far Better" to be with Christ (The two words embedded in a scripture that brought immense comfort to Pastor Marv Wiseman when he lost his beloved Barbara suddenly.)