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The terminal versus the eternal

“You have pancreatic cancer! It has spread to your liver and other organs of your body. Surgery is not an option.”

That was the diagnosis given to my seemingly healthy husband in late April of 2008.

My world crumbled.

Levi seemed unruffled at the diagnosis. Feeling numb, I was afraid I wouldn’t be as strong as he was.

Shortly after we arrived home, he turned on the TV. Mark Lowry was singing “Does Jesus Care?,” ending with a chorus of “God will take care of you.”

My tears flowed freely. I put my arms around my husband and said, “Don’t worry, Jesus does care and God will take care of us.”

Who was I trying to convince?

At this time, one of my nieces was in the last stages of colon cancer, suffering untold agony.

My first prayer for my husband was, “Dear God, please don’t let him suffer.”

My husband had retired from the New Mexico State Prison in Santa Fe as a chaplain. After his retirement and our moving to Colorado, he worked with the county inmates, having chapel services each Sunday morning and counseling them any time of the week.

I was trying not to be bitter. It wasn’t working too well.

My “wifely” mind said to the Lord, “Why couldn’t one of these guys have this cancer; they aren’t doing anything good for anyone.”

As I was trying to go to sleep that night, I’m not sure if the Lord spoke to me or if I was dreaming, but out of the blue came this thought, “If you were choosing someone to come live with you, who would you choose?”

Wow! What a thought! Losing Levi was a terrible loss for me, but to God, Levi was coming home.

People were very kind to us and many people prayed for his healing, but the uppermost thought in my mind was, “Eighty-five healthy years. What do you expect?

Be thankful for what you’ve had. The Bible says that it’s appointed unto man once to die.

Levi went through all the prescribed treatments for cancer, had two stints put in, and with chemotherapy lost his appetite, losing one third of his body weight; but despite all this, he didn’t lose his hair, never was nauseated or experienced the normal pain of pancreatic cancer.

I couldn’t believe as I watched his treatments that he could not be in pain, but when I would ask him if he was hurting, it was always the same answer, “No, I have no pain.”

Cancer took its toll in other ways, but he never was in pain as some others I have witnessed in the same situation.

He was able to stay at home for which I was grateful. At the end, we had hospice nurses who were wonderful. They would also ask him about his pain level, and he would tell them there was no pain.

One day, he told the nurse he had slight pain in his side. They immediately gave him pain medication. The next day, Dec. 8, he passed away peacefully, in his own bed.

In the nine months we had together since the diagnosis, Levi never needed 24-hour hour care, and I thank God daily for answering my prayer that he would not have the pain and suffering that usually goes with pancreatic cancer.

For those of you who have lost a loved one, you know the emptiness it brings to your life; but you can be thankful for the time you did have, rejoice because you know they are in a much better place and appreciate any mercies you receive along the way.

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