Monday, February 13, 2012

Tribute to a Victorious Life

Photo by Marian Crawford
My husband and I were stunned when the call came.

"You need to come now," my nephew said, his voice catching. "It doesn't look like she'll make it through the night."

He was referring to his mother, my dear sister-in-law, Suzi, who had seemed the very picture of vitality before she'd unexpectedly received a diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer two days after Christmas. It had already spread to her spine, ribs, and hips, and the doctors gave her only 6-12 months. Maybe more with treatment.

But it wasn't to be. The cancer progressed more quickly than they thought. The phone call that rocked our world came just six weeks later.

It's true that we're all just one phone call from our knees.

When we arrived at Suzi's home, hospice had set up a hospital bed in her family room beside the wall lined with dozens of black-and-white photos of her ancestors. But Suzi couldn't see them; her eyes remained closed most of the time, except for the few moments she cracked them open to respond to her daughter's voice, or when her beloved brother arrived. And then it was questionable how much she was really seeing, for her normally twinkling blue eyes were glazed and dull with impending death.

We, the family, took turns speaking to Suzi, and caressing her hands and sponging her forehead in attempt to soothe pain-induced writhing. An hour passed painstakingly slowly.

But then something truly amazing happened.

Suddenly, Suzi threw back her head and lifted wide, clear eyes toward the ceiling directly above her bed. It was so obvious that she was looking at something, we all gazed upward to see what had commanded her attention. Our mortal eyes could see nothing, but Suzi, already passing through the effervescent veil into eternity, seemed mesmerized.

In one accord, we recalled her husband's account of Suzi's midnight conversation with Jesus a few days earlier. In the darkest of nights, Suzi, her husband declared, had begun answering and asking questions to an unseen bedside visitor, whom she identified with complete confidence as Jesus. Suzi's normal conversational cadence and pauses for responses that her husband couldn't hear caused him to believe with all certainty that the presence of the Son of God was unquestionably in that room, and every bit as real as if she'd been talking to her best friend.

At that time, Suzi told her husband that Jesus had said it wasn't yet time for her to come, but that she needed to stay and fight a little while longer. And then, in the end, she would win the battle. 

And victorious she was, as she drew her last breath and the people who had loved her most in this brief life ushered her into the next by joining hands around her bed, praying and singing hymns and praise songs through their tears.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," (Psalm 116:15, KJV).

As precious as Suzi was to those who knew and loved her, what immense comfort to know she's even more precious to her Creator and the Lover of her Soul who welcomed her home with opened arms.

Certainly makes one think. Life after life .. am I ready? Are you ready?