June 23, 2014


She was more of a second mother to my husband, more than just an aunt. At 82 years old, she hadn’t enjoyed good health for quite some time. So last year, after a particularly difficult illness, we moved her into our home to “rehab” her, as it were. We cooked healthy, balanced meals, got her to exercise daily, monitored her water intake, and helped her to really live again. It was amazing what happened. She lost a lot of weight, which made her walker unnecessary for the most part. Her doctors were astounded at how much better she was doing, and several medications she’d been dependent upon were no longer needed. And after six months she felt great enough to return to her own home, which, fortunately, was not far away.

But a few months ago things were not going as well as we’d hoped. There was more pain than she should have been feeling. My husband helped her troubleshoot with her doctors. Finally he asked her to come back and be with us for a few weeks until we left on a spring break trip already planned. A little less than two weeks before we were to leave, she “checked in” to our homemade “health spa” for what we’d hoped would be just a quick visit. That was a Sunday.

By Tuesday she was in the hospital in extreme pain. After an endless day the doctor said the CT scan revealed a mass on her pancreas and lesions on her liver. We knew what that meant. They wanted to do a biopsy to determine exactly where things were, but honestly, there weren’t too many thoughts that seemed hopeful, and I didn’t quite know what to pray for. At her age, with all her health issues, was there realistically a miraculous outcome to ask for?

God steered my prayers in the right direction the night we found out. I remember asking Him, “Lord, what will Your grace be to us with this? How will Your mercy be shown?”

The next day was filled with mind-numbing disbelief. But again, the words running through my mind were about grace and mercy. We would begin to see that now, quickly.

On Thursday her biopsy was completed, and results were to come by the weekend. But the doctors found a blood clot in her leg. In order to administer blood thinners to break it up, the pain medications had to be discontinued, which left her miserable. By that evening her blood pressure had weakened.

We left early that Friday morning to get passports taken care of in downtown D.C., still unsure if we would even make the trip. It was during that time, lulled into a quieter place by the low blood pressure, that she went to sleep. We didn’t think that would happen that day. But yet in the shock and raw pain emerged grace and mercy.

As she was Muslim, she had to be buried within 24 hours. So within a few hours of her passing, my husband and I secured a burial plot and made arrangements for her funeral. By the close of Sabbath the next day, she was laid to rest, and it was all over. I don’t know how else to describe how we accomplished anything with clarity, other than that we were carried through it.

In the following days family came from near and far to comfort and care for all of us who remained, and in her death people were brought together. A week later the oncologist said that her cancer had been so aggressive that his recommendation would have been to forgo treatment and keep her on morphine until she passed away on her own. How long would that have taken and what level of suffering would she have gone through? All I could think was: God, how merciful You are.

As the dust has settled a little, we can only say God’s timing is always best. A terrible situation was played out with the minimum of pain for all. In this life we will experience deep hurt, and, of course, we will ask why. But if you look carefully, you will see what we saw: grace and mercy.

To have ended suffering and surrounded the grieving with comfort and peace, to have orchestrated a multitude of events to smoothly synchronize; in this horrible time for our family, we were surrounded by God’s faithfulness to us.

His grace and mercy are always there.