by Carol Albrecht
Call your sister,” Paul, my husband, said when I walked in the door from a Saturday meeting. “She’s got bad news.”
I felt a flip-flop in my stomach. “Do you know what it is?”
Paul nodded, “She’s got cancer.”
I called Marilyn and listened while she described the findings—bladder cancer, an aggressive cancer that offered little hope. Yet, she remained positive. “I don’t care what my urologist says,” she confided. “I have to have hope.”
My sister and I weren’t close growing up. She was four years younger, and we didn’t have much in common. As adults, we lived a thousand miles apart and didn’t see each other often. When our mother became ill, however, I flew home to help Marilyn. During that week, we re-bonded, a sisterly bond that neither of us had experienced before. That only made her news more devastating.
During the next months, I followed my sister’s progress. She had her bladder removed. She began chemo and radiation. She didn’t complain or give up hope. Still, her doctor’s grim warning haunted me. I prayed for her daily.
It was the uncertainty that was hardest for me. One day, pouring out my heart to the Lord, I asked Him, if it was His will, to show me words revealing the path Marilyn would take. I opened my Bible, put my finger down, and read from 1 Peter 1:24: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (ESV).
I sat there shaken. I felt the Lord had answered my question: Marilyn was going to die.
Marilyn lived a little more than a year after that. I said my final good-bye at her funeral, knowing she was now free of suffering and home with the Lord.
Two years after Marilyn’s death, my husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After chemo and radiation, he endured a nine-hour surgery to remove the tumor. Healing was slow. I begged God to restore his health, and again the ogre of not knowing haunted me. If I asked again for God’s direction, would He answer?
I opened my Bible and my eyes fell on Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, and heals all your diseases.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. These words were words of life. I continued reading.
Verse 15 of the psalm came upon me unexpectedly. “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him.”
I couldn’t believe it. I felt the Lord had shown me almost exactly the same words as before. Paul was getting better. He couldn’t be dying.
Less than two months later, I buried Paul in the cemetery outside of town beneath a sheltering tree. Paul had joined my sister in heaven.
I thought about those passages often after losing my husband and my sister, pondering God’s words. I know now that I focused on the wrong part of the message. The opening words pointed to death, but the closing words proclaimed life everlasting. In my narrow focus on loss, I’d missed the joy and hope of God’s promises: The word of the Lord remains forever.
Yes, Marilyn died. Yes, Paul died. Yes, I, too, will die. But God’s Word and His love never die. They stand as a beacon leading to eternal life.
Death will come. But God has shown me the rest of the story. Because of the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, His words, love, and promises of eternal life stand forever.
About the Author: Carol Albrecht is a member of Centennial Lutheran Church, Superior, Neb.