As you think of it, I’d like you to consider praying for my Auntie Jannie this week, and for as long as you may feel led.
Auntie Jannie celebrated her 69th birthday last month, less than two months after learning that she has terminal lung cancer. She called me with her tragic news last night from her hospital bed and I could barely discern her whispers.
About six weeks ago my aunt was faced with the decision of letting the cancer take its course (which the doctors predicted would leave her with 3-6 months of life) or take low level treatments of radiation and chemotherapy to stop the progression of the disease (which they thought would give her closer to a year). She was ready to let the disease run its course; but, after consulting with her husband and five children, decided to take the treatments, so long it would not cause her additional suffering.
Nine days ago she had her first chemo treatment. It left her blood counts low and her energy zapped. A few days later she contracted a stomach virus that her body was unable to fight. She ended up in the hospital on Sunday with severe dehydration and an infection in her colon.
Now, to say that my Auntie Jannie is a fighter would be an understatement that would do her an injustice. She has seen more than her fair share of trials. She grew up with an alcoholic father along with other in-family domestic troubles. Thankfully, her father (my grandfather), got help and quit drinking, but not until she was already grown and married.
She married young and had the first of her twelve children when she was 20. Her first daughter was stillborn, and a year later she gave birth to her second daughter, who also bypassed the cradle and went straight to the grave. Only five of her children survived. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through an entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery and to return home empty-handed. But she did it five times. Two of her babies were miscarried before they made it to term. I never heard her complain. She mourned her loss, but her greatest expression was one of immense joy in the five children she DID have.
Twenty-six years ago, with her children ranging in age from 19 down to 12 she lost her husband, my Uncle Rick. He hadn’t been feeling well and had gone to bed early without his supper. She wanted to take him to the hospital but he refused. He called her in to his room and she went in and sat on the edge of their bed. He took her face in his hands, told her he loved her, and kissed her. Then he dropped his arms and died.
The following years were extremely difficult for her. She had to learn to run the house, pay the bills, balance the budget, and raise her five teenagers by herself. After some years of trial and error everything seemed to settle into place. She remarried, watched four of her children marry, and heartily welcomed her fifteen grandchildren. You can easily imagine the level of empathy she had for her daughter-in-law when she lost one of her first children (one of twins) at birth.
When I learned of Auntie Jannie’s diagnosis in October, I called her. Her outlook was amazing. While she wasn’t a smoker, she had been. She was thankful for the extra years she most likely got by quitting fifteen years ago. She was thankful for her children and her grandchildren and the sixty-nine years she had been given. She knew they were a gift. She told me that every day she is thankful for the gift of another day, because she knows she is never guaranteed another one.
She wasn’t looking forward to the battle with the cancer, she was hoping it wouldn’t be painful, but she was ready to go, and had no regrets.
When I talked to her last night she was weak, and tired, but strong. She was going through yet another trial and instead of curling up in a ball and shutting out the world, she was on the phone calling to tell me the news.
I was thankful I had already heard it a few hours earlier. I don’t know that I could have understood something so weighty through her halting whispers.
For, the day before, while she was in a state of delirium in the hospital, her husband left her bedside, went home, and terminated his life at the end of a rope.
Two of my cousins found him hanging in his garage later that day.
So now, my aunt has another grief to bear as she faces her own death so bravely. I can’t express the enormous weight I feel for her. Yet, I am awed and inspired by her strength.
Please pray that God would be merciful to her, and shower her with his love and goodness and wonderful kindness.
Auntie Jannie, I love you!