Friday, December 08, 2006

Grief and Praise

My good friend John of Blogotional encouraged me to share the story of how it came to pass that Mrs. Manly’s Mom passed from life to Life last week. We all grieve and mourn her passing, but God, in His mercy, has used the past few weeks and Ma’s last days on earth in a powerful way.

I called her Ma -- my Mom is always Mom, but I needed a word special for Grandma Manly, and Ma seemed to work for all of us. Ma was a terrific person, daughter, sister, wife, Mom, Grandma, Great Grandma, and friend, and I was honored to get to be her son, even if by marriage.

We found out about a month ago that Ma (81) had Pancreatic Cancer. Two weeks ago the Doctors urged us to have her checked in to a local hospital with blood clots in her lungs. Then found them all through her legs, Liver starting to fail. She was taken off everything this past Saturday.

Ma passed away Wednesday morning, November 29, 2006. There was a lovely obituary in the local paper. We held a Wake the following Friday, and a Funeral Service on Saturday morning at a local Catholic Church.

Ma passed from life to Life peacefully and without pain, Praise God. Everyone is doing well, strong when they need, dwelling in sorrow and grief when they need, coming alongside each other throughout.

Everything was incredibly sudden, for someone who was pretty active and healthy. Grandpa Manly (85) is the same way, taking it very hard, but we think he’ll bounce back. Big family, lots of support, well prepared financially, and Mrs. Manly is the youngest of three surviving sisters – and we’re all sharing the effort, and friends and family have been terrific. We are dealing with the usual silliness, dysfunction, some conflicts, family stuff, but overall much less than could be, and things get resolved or at least set aside fairly quickly.

Best of all, God has been glorified in many ways. Here are a couple.

Little Manly (10 years old, 11 in February) has been considering getting baptized. He accepted Jesus, as he explains, when he was 5, but he didn’t really understand as he does now. He watched as several young people of the church were baptized, and listened to their testimonies intently. He felt convicted that he wasn’t going to do it until he could really commit to being a Christian, as he described it, to get serious about reading the Bible, praying, and being what God wants him to be. (!!!)

The Sunday before Ma went into the hospital (11/12), Little Manly was listening to a Missionary speak at church, as the Missionary explained how he was struggling with the decision to take on mission work, whether he was “up to it,” or prepared for such a calling. Doubts. He described being led to the following verses, 2 Timothy 1:
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
At that moment, Little Manly connected with that same deliberation and doubt in himself, felt convicted by the testimony and God’s word, and told us straight away that he wanted to be baptized, that he was ready, that he knew that he knew. Obviously, we were overjoyed (as was the missionary when later he was told the impact his story had on our son, and others too). We made arrangements to have our Pastor meet with Little Manly to discuss his intentions the following Saturday.

The very next Tuesday (11/14), Ma went to the hospital. She was fine in every respect, except that her legs were swollen and she couldn’t walk easily without help – and she was told by a nurse, “if you try to get out of that bed, the clots could kill you.” We didn’t know for a few days how advanced the cancer was, how thoroughly run through her organs, the number of clots, etc. By Friday (11/17), the Doctor shared with Mrs. Manly and her sisters how bad things really were.

We had our Pastor come to the hospital Saturday afternoon to meet with Little Manly. He found us in her room, the Pastor visited with Grandma and Grandpa Manly, and one of her sisters. We intended to step away into a conference or prayer room, but after a while, Little Manly started talking to Pastor John at Ma’s bedside. John proceeded to ask him a series of questions, very conversational, about how he came to be a Christian, what that meant to him, what was different now from when he was 5, just getting him to talk about his faith and what he believed. In 20 minutes time, Little Manly just blew us all away with his seriousness, his understanding, and way he described that sense of, “now I KNOW what it means to need salvation, and accept Jesus as Savior.”

Ma listened intently to every word.

John then used Little Manly’s testimony as an opportunity to ask the family if any of them could relate to what he had shared, and whether they had likewise accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, not saved by a Priest (they were all raised Catholic, and Grandma and Grandpa Manly still attended Catholic masses), or by being in a Christian family, or by husbands or wives or parents, but a personal relationship with Jesus.

Ma said she had, about 5 years earlier. (We were with her then, it was a year or two after her elder daughter died of Breast Cancer after being a survivor for 7 years.)

Pastor John highlighted Little Manly’s testimony, explaining that, he was talking about a true repentance and a turning in the heart, of giving oneself to Jesus as Lord. As John discussed with Ma, she described how she felt an immediate peace 5 years ago, like Jesus had indeed come into her heart.

She said something that made him think to follow up, and ask her if there was any bitterness or regret that she harbored, that felt like it was wrapped around her heart.

She said, yes there was. John encouraged her to take some time that night, it could even be just her and God, and speak to God about that hurt or bitterness or regret, and surrender it to Him, that he would receive it from her as a burden she could shed. She said she would.

Mrs. Manly followed up the next day, asked her if she remembered what John had said, she said, “of course,” my wife asked if she had spoke to God about it, she had, did she want to talk to her about it, she said no. But she was very glad, and Mrs. Manly sensed that she did indeed seem freed from whatever it was.

Since then, we all brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner to the hospital, Ma slept all day, then just when we were done, woke up, and asked for a few bites of her favorites, oyster stuffing, mashed potato, stuffing, turkey, gravy, a bite of everything. Grandpa Manly’s brother has 2 grown daughters and 4 sons, and they all showed up later on, spent time with Ma, then many of us joined around Ma’s bedside and lifted her up in prayer, blessed her for her love and honored her as a Mom, Grandma, Great Grandma, Sister, Aunt, Friend.

This past Saturday, the Doctor sat down with Grandpa, Mrs. Manly and her sisters and told her the end was near, and he was stopping any cancer treatments. He recommended, and they agreed, to remove the IV, which was actually promoting the edema and swelling that was making her more uncomfortable. She’d been quite jaundiced all along, and her liver and kidneys were obviously failing day by day.

Since she had entered the hospital, nobody had really explained in detail to Ma what her situation was. Even Dad was spared some of the details, and Mrs. Manly and her sisters, as proxies, asked that conversations go through them. Dad was not functioning well both before and after Ma went in the hospital.

Ma had been trying to talk a lot that day. All most of us could make out was, “I don’t know.” The nurses that evening suggested that it might help if we told her plainly what was happening, and told her it was alright to let go, and go be with God. (The nurses, almost without exception, have been angels and very attached to the family.) Dad started crying, saying, there was no way he could bring himself to say that, however much he knew it was true.)

Mrs. Manly and I drove away from the hospital that night very troubled. My wife called the nurse’s station, talked to the nurse we were closest to, Marcie, and asked her how Ma was. She said, “wide awake.” Ma kept saying, “I don’t know.” Marcie said Ma said she didn’t understand why she wasn’t getting any better.

Mrs. Manly asked if it would be alright if we came back – after visiting hours – and Marcie encouraged us to do so. Her Mom was wide wake, from 9:30 pm straight through until about 3 am. For an hour or so, we spoke with her, explained that she wasn’t going to get better, that she was going to go to be with Jesus, we didn’t want her to, but that was what God wanted to do, to spare her any suffering. She said she knew, that the Doctor had told her. We told her how much we loved her as Mom and Grandma to Little Manly, what a great job she did, how much we all loved her, how much she gave to all of us, how much it meant that she grabbed hold of my daughters as her own Grandchildren, how much she had given to our son and how much he loved her. Ma squeezed her daughter’s hand tight several times, which she hasn’t been able to do, and Mrs. Manly knew that she heard every word. Mrs. Manly asked her Mom if she wanted both of us to stay that night, she nodded yes, so we did.

From about 11 until 3, Mrs. Manly kept lifting her head to see her Mom, who kept looking at her, and my wife would tell her we were right there with her, tell her she was going to be okay, not to be afraid, that God was taking care of her. At 3, Mrs. Manly suggested to the Nurse that maybe she could have something to sleep, which they did, and she did, as we did. The next morning, we explained to Dad and Mrs. Manly’s sisters what happened, they were upset, but okay with it. (Dad has been offered a rollaway bed, but hasn’t wanted to stay (or go home either), and he wants so much to feel like she knows he’s there, and wants to help, but he feels helpless. It’s been very hard on him. But they did take some time this past week, speaking to each other, saying they love each other.

By Monday, Ma could open her eyes with effort, blink, sometimes smile or scrunch up her face. Dad and Mrs. Manly’s sisters, friends and family all had opportunities to tell Ma how much she meant to them, and that if God needed her to come be with Him, it was okay to go.

Ma passed from life to Life Wednesday shortly after 8:00 am in the morning, with her eyes looking up, ever peaceful and free from pain. We prayed around her bedside that morning, commended her to God, praised her and her life, and prayed for peace and comfort. The priest at the hospital came, and administered Last Rites, as customary in her Roman Catholic faith tradition. The Father was very nice, and we started into this season of mourning, but with confidence and joy that Ma indeed had gone to rest in the loving arms of the Heavenly Father.

We all loved Ma very much, and are very, very proud of her legacy as a Wife, Mom, Sister, Grandma, and most of all, precious child of God. I am very proud of Mrs. Manly, too, who along with Dad, her sisters, and nieces, have carried through this difficult time with tremendous grace. They provide a powerful testimony to God’s ability to provision and to sustain, even at times most difficult.

Thanks to all for prayers and encouragement. The family deeply appreciates everyone’s condolences, sympathy, companionship, and comfort. God bless you all, lift us all, in prayer, and I look forward to connecting with everyone again soon.

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Anonymous MissBirdlegs in AL said...

So sad and yet so uplifting - My sincere sympathy and condolences to you all, especially Mrs. Manly. I know exactly how she's feeling. Seeing my mother go to Jesus was one of the hardest and most loving things I've ever known. Telling her it was okay to let go (when it somehow wasn't) was awfully heartbreaking. Will lift you all up in prayers. Best, Katy

4:07 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

It is difficult letting go any time, but I am glad that you have the assurance and peace that comes in knowing where your loved ones stand. With my dad, it was truly a last hour conversion. Also good to hear of Little Manly's commitment.

1:46 AM  
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Anonymous Deb said...

Never think that what you write on here is not meaningful. I have read just 2 posts on your blog and have recieved many things from reading them, comfort, conviction, and peace among others that I have no words to describe it. The Lord is using you in a mighty and powerful way thank you. And to think a post at Blackfive by Uncle Jimbo brought me here. God does truly work in mysterious ways. Thank you again. An aging PK....

5:55 AM  

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