Chapter 10: The Last Years
There is a book called Lee, His Last Years. It is a partial biography of the life of General Lee after that great and terrible war. This man suddenly found himself without occupation and poorer than a church mouse. He tried farming initially, but that was not his skill. And then he was invited by Washington College to come and be their President. The next five years of his life he declared to be the most productive of his entire life.
In some ways I could say the same thing about these last four years of my life. In August 2009, after almost no symptoms, I was diagnosed with an aggressive uterine cancer. In the providence of God, due to the ministry in Ethiopia and the scheduling of the medical office, it took several months before this diagnosis was confirmed. I felt fine. I felt energetic. I was very happy in the work that God had placed in my hands in Ethiopia. I was writing articles for the blog. I was mentoring young women. I was involved in a church that was growing spiritually in obedience, and it was exciting to be a part of a vibrant flock under good pastoral leadership. We also had a good relationship with Dave’s students, many of them coming to the farm from time to time.
On every side life was looking good. The declaration by the gynecologist of my diagnosis seemed surreal. I knew what that diagnosis meant and I knew what my life would be like in the coming years. I knew I would be faced with surgery, chemo, radiation, more chemo, more radiation, and all the fallout from that treatment. I knew that nausea, fatigue, and pain would become my constant companions. And I knew that the UNC (University of North Carolina) gynecological oncology would usurp my calendar.
Everything now revolved around what needed to be done. At the time of my diagnosis my husband was recovering from a bout of malaria that he had picked up in Ethiopia. He was in the hospital for a week with horrendous headaches, and even after his release he suffered greatly. Thankfully he was treated aggressively and has never had a sequel to that. I drove down to the doctor’s appointment to hear the results of the biopsy, while he stayed at home and rested. So I heard the words, “High Grade, Aggressive, Serious Cell Carcinoma” alone! My calm acceptance of this diagnosis can only be called supernatural. I was a nurse and I knew the likely end result of this treatment. I went home listening to BBN radio, and the memory verse for that week was Psalm 95:1: “Come let us praise the Lord, let us sing for joy to God, who protects us.”
As I was considering my predicament on the hour drive back, my mind settled on two issues. I would handle this challenge according to truth and transparency. Meaning all of truth not only medical truth but also spiritual truth would be my constant companions. I would be transparent with everyone about the situation, because without truth the information needed to navigate the tough waters ahead would be inadequate, and without transparency there would be no benefit to others for my situation. Put frankly, I did not want to waste this horrible diagnosis. I wanted to get the maximum spiritual benefit, the maximum productivity for the kingdom. When I got home, I read the rest of Psalm 95. Verse 4 particularly struck me: “He rules over the whole earth from the deepest caves to the highest hills.” To me at that time the deepest cave in the whole earth was my uterus, and the truth that I needed to hold onto was that He indeed ruled over my uterus.
For my kind of cancer, medical scientists had determined nine predisposing conditions. I did not have a single one of those. Aside from an aunt who was a chain smoker and a grandfather who also was a chain smoker, both of whom died from lung cancer, there was no cancer in my family. In my family we had great longevity. To live to the 90s and the 100s was not uncommon. To be struck with an aggressive cancer at age 56 had to have been a God thing in this circumstance.
My dear husband was laying on the couch reading when I came home from the doctor’s office. He was still nursing a bad headache. He asked me how it went, and when I told him I have an aggressive uterine cancer it did not sink in. I had to tell him two or three times until he understood the answer to his question. For several days we were both in shock, but then we began to rally. The first thing to do was to set up the transparency procedure. So I wrote my first article dated August 9, 2009. In this article I explained as best I could what this type of cancer is like and the poor prognosis that it carries. Most uterine cancers are easily cured. We call these the “garden variety.” A simple hysterectomy is usually all that is needed because they are slow growing. But my kind of cancer is immediately presumed to be Stage III until proven otherwise (Stage III means that the cancer has grown past the primary organ and has spread locally, to other organs, or to the lymph nodes.)
It’s interesting to note that two ultrasounds and two pelvic exams all by different doctors did not show anything. It was only the biopsy that showed the cancerous cells. With the biopsy at hand, we did a CT scan and it did not show any spreading beyond the uterus. So we scheduled surgery as soon as possible to remove the ovaries, uterus, and other structures. During the surgery they removed several lymph nodes just to check. Numerous lymph nodes tested positive, especially on the right side. Surgery was scheduled as soon as possible using robotic instruments.
The week I had my surgery is the week they highlighted President Obama being shown robotic technology in a major hospital. Six weeks after my surgery, I began the standard Chemo of Taxol and Carboplatin. For my kind of cancer there was a 40% response rate to this chemo. Response rate meant that the cancer was slowed, or the cancer was stopped, or the cancer was shrunk. My first round of chemo really sent me for a loop. I had the chemo and stayed overnight for observation and then was sent home. On the second night about 2 a.m. I woke up with the sense that I was a skeleton blowing in the breeze (as on Halloween nights). I could feel every one of my bones in horrific pain. That day we drove to the emergency room complaining of the severe pain. They gave me two doses of morphine 10 m.g. with no effect. Then they gave me two doses of Dilaudid 1 m.g. and the pain was brought from a 14 to a 5 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst pain).
How thankful I was to the Lord for pain medicine that was working! In subsequent chemo treatments I was given large doses of steroids to combat this bone pain. I praise God that no subsequent treatments were as bad as that first one. It was my wakeup call to the side effects of chemo. I had 9 chemo treatments (3 cycles) and then I moved to the radiation department. Here I was given a spray of radiation to my lymph nodes in the groin and in the abdomen. The logic behind this was that perhaps not all the cancer was removed from the lymph nodes, and if we could kill the cancer in the lymph nodes it would keep the cancer from spreading. So I went through the routines of having tattoos put on my belly for radiation treatments. They also did internal high-density radiation treatments for the uterine/cervical region. That was very painful to me.
So the winter of 2009-2010 was spent at the radiation department at UNC. Then I returned to having weekly chemo treatments: more Taxol with its attending bone pain. I praise the Lord that, aside from that bone pain and swelling due to the steroids, I had little other side effects.
One thing I covenanted before the Lord was to press forward with our work in Ethiopia. I did not want to cancel any ministry there because I was not feeling well. It became a matter of serious trust between the Lord and me to fulfill that covenant. I remember one time speaking in a little church near Hillsborough, NC. I was so dizzy and washed out from the chemo that I could hardly stand. But God enabled me to speak about the Ethiopia work, to spend time in fellowship with the believers, and to drive the 2 hours home. That little church failed to act on anything that we presented, but I rejoice that by His power I was able to be faithful in the work.
Our family in Ethiopia had not seen me since my diagnosis, and we felt that they needed to see my face and that we needed to see their faces. So in March of 2010, Dave and I took a quick two-week trip to Burji and Alaba. As we spoke to the churches, our message was the same: You must be faithful to the Lord in whatever circumstances He brings into your life. I have a little video clip of Nigusse translating my testimony in a conference in Alaba.
I am guessing there were maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people there. I hope these people got the message that is so critical in Ethiopia and in America. The message is that success is determined by faithfulness, we must be faithful to Him. He saved us and He lives for us. We must be faithful to the end. Everywhere I went, I said that I am not praying for healing. I am praying for faithfulness. I am praying for the strength to be faithful. I suppose most people would want to be healed, but it really did not impress upon me that healing was more valuable than faithfulness. I wanted to live in the victory of the Spirit. This was more important to me than the regaining of health.
After our return from Ethiopia in March of 2010, we completed the Taxol/Carboplatin treatments and did a CT scan. The CT scan showed spots in my lungs for the first time. We proceeded to do a PET scan, which would show us if these new spots were cancer. I received the results of that PET scan just hours before leaving to take our largest team ever to Ethiopia. All combined we had a total of 24 people scheduled to come to Ethiopia in July of 2010. I had asked God for supernatural strength to do all that was necessary for that team. We were setting up a rural medical clinic, we were establishing solar-powered loud speakers in 5 of the rural churches, I was implementing a rural Bible teaching program with solar-powered hand wound players, and we were distributing Bibles and eyeglasses. It was the first time we had a whole family on our team, including a 7-year old boy. But the Lord helped me to “hide all these things in my heart” with regards to the results of that PET scan. It was not until we returned from Ethiopia that we shared what Dave and I were facing. The cancer had definitely moved beyond the local lymph nodes and was now in both lungs. In August 2010, we switched to the next most efficient chemo treatment, Adriamycin. The most pronounced side effect is cardiac damage. We did an echocardiogram prior to beginning the treatment. My ejection factor (EF) was a strong 75% a year after Adriamycin. We repeated the exam, and my EF had fallen to 55%.
At the end of the Ethiopia trip we had a trauma of sorts. I was taking back to the US all the left-over Ethiopian money, knowing that later on people would be returning back to Ethiopia for more ministry. I was unaware that Ethiopia had established a brand new law that no one could leave the country with more than the equivalent of $15 USD. Furthermore, this law was not advertised in any manner. There were no signs at the airport, no notice on Ethiopian websites, and no notification by the U.S. State Department for Ethiopia. For a variety of reasons we had an unusually high amount of national currency on us. Through no fault of my own I was arrested for “smuggling currency,” and for 24 hours I was shuttled from one government official to another. Finally I was told I would be held in jail until I was tried. I pleaded with the judge to allow me to go home to continue with my chemo treatment. He asked for a letter from my doctor affirming that I had cancer. Of course I had not anticipated this situation and had no letter. I referred him to the 15 or 20 church leaders that were standing outside the courtroom who could give testimony. I offered to show him the scars on my belly. I offered to show him that my hair was a wig. So there I stood in my bare-headed glory.
Then he wrote something on a piece of paper and switched to English for the first time. He said, “I am allowing you to go free on bail if you pay a fee of $500, and I am giving you back your passport.” We were relieved with his decision. As we left the courtroom I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had asked my husband, “Does this count as persecution?” and he said “Well, even if it doesn’t, it definitely qualifies for enduring hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ!” I often recalled that statement to keep me from crying from the fatigue. Still, I felt an underlying calm throughout that whole venture. As I went out to join the church leaders, the policemen came over and said to the church leaders, “I know what they have planned for her. I encourage you to get out of the country and never come back.” So Dave flew me back to the U.S. first class. That’s the first time that we have paid for a first class ticket. The cost to us for the travel for that July 2010 trip was over $5000 (as always we paid for our own airfare as well as administrative expenses.) On that return flight, sitting in first class, passport in hand, I did not feel truly free until we were out of Ethiopian airspace. Dave stayed behind in Ethiopia to continue the second phase of our ministry. To say that this was difficult for him on his part is a great understatement. But we can see the grace and mercy of God in protecting his work in that the arrest happened to me instead of to him.
We returned from this trip to resume chemo treatments and additionally to shelter a family in ministry that was undergoing severe difficulty. I praise God that the side effects were minimal with the Adriamycin. I had only swelling from the steroids and fatigue but no nausea or bone pain. However, we experienced a new challenge. Like all chemotherapy, Adriamycin attacked the bone cells, so I had to constantly be monitoring my white blood cells in particular. I would drop to where I almost had no white blood cells. This put me in grave danger of contracting an infection. Twice during the fall of 2010, I was hospitalized with severe Neutropenia and was placed on special shots to stimulate the bone and on reverse isolation to prevent the accidental transfer of disease from my visitors and hospital staff. These shots caused bone pain similar to the first treatment, though not as severe.
In January 2011, it became apparent that the Adriamycin was no longer helping to keep the cancer at bay, so we quit taking it. By now I was exhausted from treatments. We took a few weeks break, and then I went on a drug that is called Biologic. This means that instead of trying to kill the cancer it makes changes in the body; killing the cancer is a secondary issue. The biologic treatment that I went on is called Avastin. Unlike the chemo drugs, Avastin tried to shut down the blood vessels that go to fast-growing areas. Since cancer is a fast-growing area, presumably the Avastin would keep the body from providing the blood vessels needed around the cancer. It was a very gentle treatment without all the usual side effects of fatigue steroid, chubby cheeks, etc.
In the spring we added a chemo treatment called Gemzar. This was not a proven drug for my kind of cancer, but we had no other proven drug to choose from. So we started using it and amazingly got the best results we had gotten thus far. Thus in spring 2011, I began to get some of the best CT results I ever had. The year 2011 was essentially non-descript: chemo treatment, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, rest, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, rest, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, rest. When we entered January of 2012, we had no inkling of the tornado we were about to encounter. I had come to think (jokingly) that this chemo and I would go off into sunset together. Nothing of any significance seemed to be happening one way or the other.
In July of 2012, my husband took a team to Ethiopia. I remained behind but was very involved in the logistics and the arrangements and orientations. I think 17 people were on that team, and they all went to Alaba. It was the largest team that had ever come to Alaba, and it really rocked the waters in that area of Ethiopia. One of the primary dangers of Adriamycin is not only loss of cardiac function but also the possibility of stroke or blood clot. For this reason Dave asked my mom to stay with me the entire time while the team was in Ethiopia. We had a wonderful time together. I felt like I was being babysat. I could understand where Dave was coming from. To him this was good stewardship. We had reviewed the signs and symptoms of strokes and blood clots. We drew the map of how to get me to the closest emergency room, and then we just enjoyed each other from day to day. During this time the preparations at Maple Ridge were in full swing. Maple Ridge is an 1810 farmhouse that we were renovating in preparation for use in the kingdom as a shelter for those in ministry. We were developing it into a house that a family with up to six children could stay. It would have a fenced-in back yard and an all-new kitchen, and be fully functioning and fully stocked with linens and furniture. So during this time I was doing a lot of the painting that was needed at Maple Ridge.
Our contractor Robbie Dunn was organizing the work and doing all of the hardware, HVAC, electrical, etc. It was a really fun time in my life. Dave came back, and mom returned to Dallas. Five days later I woke up at two in the morning. I had decided to check my emails since I hadn’t checked them all day and was frustrated to find that my right arm could not stay on the keyboard. I walked to the kitchen sink to get a drink of water, thinking I must have slept on the arm and this will give it time to get the kinks out. As I went to get a glass of water, I dropped the glass and now began to get some “red lights” in my brain. As I turned to put the broken glass into the trash can I rotated and fell, hitting my head on the dishwasher. Now I knew for sure that I was a stroke victim. The question is how to get everyone awake in the house. Sitting on the kitchen floor I was waiting to hear if anyone had heard the thump, but no one came. So I pulled myself up and walked down the hallway to my bedroom. I pushed back the door to my bedroom, turned on the light, and cried, “Help me!” Then I knew it was a stroke because my speech was garbled.
We had done stroke drills, and Dave immediately knew that this was a stroke situation. So we got in the car and he drove to the emergency room for the usual stroke treatment. A CT was negative for metastatic cancer but it was positive for stroke. I was in the hospital for a few days and then was released. At that time I was struggling with the Lord. I pleaded with him, “Please do not take away my ability to communicate! How can I communicate the Gospel, how can I do the Ethiopia work if I cannot communicate either verbally or by typing?” It wasn’t long before all of my faculties returned to normal. My speech was clear, my walking was steady, my typing hand was steady! We were praising the Lord for it. The neurologist said, “If you had to have a stroke, this is the safest place for one.” He pointed to the MRI, and we could see a very big white spot full of dead brain tissue. My mother nearly fainted when she realized that had this happened a week earlier, she would have been alone with me to deal with the situation. God’s plans are always perfect, from His waking me up to check emails, to bringing Dave home from Ethiopia, to the perfect location of the infarction.
That was in August of 2012. Life returned to normal: chemo treatment, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, rest, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, chemo treatment, rest, except now my body was clearly becoming fatigued and distressed by chemo treatment. After the stroke we discontinued Avastin (which was the most likely cause for the stroke) but I continued with the Gemstar. As chemo treatments go, it seemed that Gemstar was the mildest. However, on October 22, 2012, I woke up promptly at 5 o’clock in the morning with the most excruciating pain I have ever had in my lower left abdomen. The pain traveled all around my abdomen and settled in a general area in mid-abdomen. I was alone at the farm. Dave and Nigusse were spending Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Southeastern Seminary. I knew I had an acute problem, and I knew things were serious. First, I did shock tests and I knew something had ruptured but I didn’t know what. If my spleen or liver had ruptured I was in danger of massive hemorrhage and shock. My shock tests were negative, but the pain continued and I knew now that I could get to the ER.
The question was whether I should call 911 and wait for the ambulance or get in the car and drive myself, knowing that I could pass out. I sat in the living room for 5 minutes asking the Lord to show me which way I should go. He indicated that I could go on by myself, so I did just that. About 25 minutes later I stood at the ER and declared, “I have an acute abdomen,” and they took me right in and did everything that should have been done in a very neat and professional manner. The CT scan showed free air, consistent with a ruptured abdomen, and an exploratory laparotomy surgery was the treatment of choice. However, just two days before I had had a chemo treatment, and just one day before I had had a bone shot to boost my white blood cells. I was at the very low edge of platelet count. Platelet count was around 50,000, far too dangerous for surgery. We checked the blood bank at the hospital but there were no frozen platelets in stock and it would be three hours before they could get them from the nearest hospital. By now my husband and Nigusse had arrived, and we felt that the situation with the platelets was clearly God’s way of showing us that we needed to go to UNC. So I was loaded into an ambulance, and an hour and a half later I arrived at UNC, where I immediately began the prep work for surgery.
I was in a very dangerous situation physically, yet I had complete peace. I was trying to use the last minute for the things that were most important, specifically praying with Nigusse and arranging some last-minute legal documents. In the providence of God the gynecologic oncology surgical team could not find where the leak in my bowels was. For an hour they searched on the surgery table, and then they called in a general surgery team. This team was able to find a very small 1m.m. slit in the Duodenum. Immediately I was patched up and we began to look for answers. I had never had an ulcer in my life and had no symptoms of an ulcer prior to this event. So the conclusion was that all of the steroids I had been taking to keep me from having anaphylactic shock in response to the Gemzar must have worn out a segment of the lining in the intestine next to my stomach. That small 1 m.m. slit opened the door to a massive fungal infection throughout my body.
So my Portacath was promptly removed and I was put on massive anti-fungal medications. They had given me platelets in the ER. My platelet count had gone from 30,000 to 70,000. So my operation was done at 70,000. Again, in the providence of God I had taken the bone shot to boost my WBCs. For two and half weeks I was at the UNC Medical Center struggling with this massive infection, and I praise God for that two and half weeks’ time. My room became a light house for spiritual ministry. Person after person sought me out to discuss their problems and the role of the Lord Jesus in their problems. I must have had 3-4 visitors a day in groups of 1-4. With each one I had a very keen sense of divine appointment. I felt like I was the secretary between the Lord for these people, and the hospital was providing us a nice meeting room. It was a wonderful time. We had my 6-week follow-up trip visit in early December and did a CT scan. It showed that the cancer was stable, but by now Dave and I were wondering if the cost of the chemo was getting too high.
About two weeks after that post-op visit, home health was in our home and I said to her, “I think I have a DVT” (Deep Vein Thrombosis). So I went to the hospital and had a standard venous duplex done, which confirmed a large blood clot behind my right knee. We did the usual treatment of blood thinners and sent me home on blood thinning pills called Coumadin (rat poison). However, I could not tolerate the nausea associated with the Coumadin. So I discontinued the Coumadin and began taking a natural enzyme from Japan called Nattokinase, which is an enzyme from the soy plants that Japanese people eat regularly. This routine worked out well, and a few months later in spring of 2013 I had another venous Doppler duplex which showed no blood clot remaining. Having now had three major side effects due to the chemo (stroke, ruptured abdomen, and blood clot) with no significant improvement in my cancer, Dave and I felt that it was time now to look to alternative treatments.
Especially at the beginning of my cancer course I had been invited to join clinical studies on potential chemo treatments, using my illness as primarily a research situation. But neither of us was inclined to go in that direction. As time went by, the restrictions of the chemo studies in large part did not allow me to participate. We did research into alternative treatments. The world of alternative treatments is vast. Hundreds of treatments and millions of combinations of treatment waited to be examined. I devoted some focused time to studying these, asking the Father to give us wisdom. Much of the dietary components I had already been doing, such as eating leafy vegetables, drinking alkali water, taking multi-vitamins, etc. But what other kind of treatment should be added?
The RF treatment (radio-frequency treatment) seemed the most logical and the most scientifically reasonable to my mind. So we spent the $4,500 needed to get our machine and began home treatments under the counsel and advice of RF experts and with the International Cancer Research Foundation (ICRF). From January through March, I felt absolutely fantastic. I felt like I was 20 years younger. I had no pain, I had high energy; it was truly amazing. The miracle that God had brought me through with the exploratory lap surgery was still taking me on a high ride emotionally. For the first time I thought that perhaps God was going to heal me. So here I was. I had discontinued chemotherapy, there was no radiation therapy option available, I was continuing to eat a good diet, and I was full of energy while starting RF treatment. I began that treatment in mid-January, and in early May, after three and a half months, we did a CT scan. This showed advancing cancer throughout my lungs, lymph nodes, and spine. We chose to continue another round of the alternative treatment and give it one more chance to prove its efficacy. So from early May until mid-June, I did intensive RF treatment along with good vitamins and alkaline water. Beginning in April, I noticed a new sort of pain in my right lung and a sort of heaviness of chest, especially with activity. In mid-June, I spoke briefly at our church in a business meeting promoting the idea of self-funded short term missionary work so that our moneys can be given to the truly needy scattered around our globe. I barely made it through that speech. I felt very weak. My husband had left the previous days for a week of teaching in Pennsylvania. Nigusse and I went home. But when I got out of the car my legs could not hold me. I immediately got back in the car and drove to the ER. They came with a wheelchair to get me and checked my saturation. It showed that I had lost 40% of lung function. I had lost 73% of a lung. As soon as they put oxygen on I was a new person. Since then I have been on oxygen between 2-4 mm flow-rate. Dave came home promptly. That was the beginning of this last stage.
In the ER they discovered that the pleural effusion in my chest had grown to absorb 1/3 of my chest. The next day I went to visit Dr. Witko, a pulmonologist in Halifax. He did a thoracentesis. He removed 1,300 c.c., which was the maximum safe amount to remove. He estimated that 2,000 cc remained in the lung (that’s about two small pitchers). In discussing with my oncologist, we scheduled me to come to UNC in a weeks’ time to place a drain whereby I could drain the fluid on an as-needed basis. Dr. Witko estimated that after this drain it would take a week for my body to produce what he had removed. However, after only three days I was in severe respiratory distress and my lung was full to over half. That Thursday afternoon I felt confident that God was calling me home. I could hardly breathe. I could move air only in the upper parts of my chest, and I could scarcely walk. My 6 daughters came to visit me and we caravanned to UNC for an emergency placement of a pleural drain. For two and half months the Lord blessed us with good service from that drain, and then it was removed because it was irritating the pleural space and the pain was difficult to bear. By this time we were officially made “DNR” (do not resuscitate). This did not mean that all treatment was discontinued. But it did mean that if my heart or lungs stopped, we would not take aggressive measures to resuscitate me.
As I write this on October 21, 2013, I expect that I am in my last weeks of life. I have very little strength, almost no appetite, and I am continuously losing weight. In the past 11 months I have lost 51 pounds. I am thankful to the Lord for all of the support systems and people that He has given to me. Dr. Rick Godwin is always ready to help, Dr. James Witko (my pulmonologist) is readily available, and Dr. Paula Gehrig and her oncology nurse Shamikia have remained faithful and diligent, all the while knowing that mine is a terminal case.
During these past weeks my focus has been on dictating my biography and creating working documents for Maple Ridge. We have many people who come to visit me, and I praise the Lord for that opportunity to continue to minister to others even at this late date. My home-going will be celebrated by a service not focused on me but on the One who gave me life. I am delighted that several of my sons are participating in the service, as well as my daughters and a grandson. It is my prayer that my passing will be on a par with Samson’s. Do you remember Samson in the Old Testament? He was a prophet of God empowered for a special work against the enemies of Israel. Somehow he got sidetracked and thought that his special power was for his own amusement. So he slew the Philistines more for his own benefit than from a sense of God’s appointment. God of necessity had to punish him. His eyes were gouged out, and he was kept imprisoned in a large hall. One night the Philistines had a large banquet. They brought Samson out to put him on display, not realizing that his hair had grown back and with it had come his supernatural strength. In the midst of that weakness, Samson cried out to God perhaps for the first time in his life and said, “O God, hear my prayer, and restore to me my strength one last time!” God answered his prayer, and he was able to pull down the large pillars he was chained to. When he pulled down those pillars the building collapsed, and the Scriptures say that he did more damage to the enemy in his death than during his entire lifetime. I praise God that my life has not paralleled Samson’s in every degree. But I am asking him to make my death occur in such a way that the enemy of our souls is damaged more in my death than in my life.
As we come to these last couple of weeks, it is not my desire to hang around. If God has work for me to do, I am willing to stay. But as I honestly look at my life now I feel that it is basically done. I want to finish my autobiography and have it posted on the website. I want to do some minor organizing and arranging things to make it easier for Dave. I want to stand and face the southeast toward Burji and extend a blessing upon those churches (at their request). Aside from these things I do not see outstanding projects or work that God has for me to do. It is a wonderful feeling to come to the end of life and know that I ran well. I have finished the course, and now it is just a matter of stepping from this life to the next life and what is called death.
Death is always with us. We die the moment we are born, we die each time we are denied something, we die each time we surrender to the Lord another aspect of our lives. Death has been with me for over 60 years. I have been dying all along. But now I am dying the last physical death, and I praise Him who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I echo the apostle Paul, who said, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.” When I was a young person, I would be sitting by the swimming pool getting ready to dive in. I had in my hand my Bible and a notebook, and I would hand this to someone. I said, “Would you hold this for me while I go in for a dive?” They would safely guard that Bible and notebook from the splashy water. I would take my dive, enjoy the pool, and then come out to find my Bible and notebook carefully cared for.
This is what I feel like. I feel like I am standing at a big pool and I have handed everything that is precious to me into the arms of the Lord Jesus. My soul, my family (biological and non-biological), the work in Ethiopia and India, my parents, my husband – everything that is precious to me I have placed in His hand and asked Him, “Will you hold this for me while I go for a dive?” At the right time, I will take that dive, as in baptism. And I will come up a new person, fully sanctified, without sin, with perfect vision and perfect love, and I will be sitting at the feet of Jesus, the One who is still holding everything that is precious to me. I have no fear about taking that dive. There are very few things that I would like to finish up before then. Depending on my strength, they can get done in two or three days, and then I will just be sitting by the pool, waiting for the time when He takes all that is precious to me and I dive in.
Physically speaking, each day I seem to get weaker. I cannot walk a step without assistance. I can eat only a few bites at a time, and nausea seems at my elbow almost constantly. It is more and more difficult to have visitors, though I love each one of them and I am thankful that they come. My heart is very calm, though at times the shortness of breath yields its natural panic attack. I praise God for such medicine as Percocet and Delaudid for pain, Compazine for nausea, Ativan for tension, Naproxen for general aches, and numerous cough syrups. So we will see what the Lord will do in the coming days. But I think his call to jump in the pool and go for the last dive is coming soon. And I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that all of us must go through. Thinking truth is a constant challenge and focus. I praise Him for the word of God and the many different translations that allow me to glean its wisdom and strength. My husband Dave and my daughters, sons, parents, and siblings are taking their own journey through this. It is my prayer that God will give them victory, just as He has given me victory. To God be the Glory, great things He will do. Amen.
[Editor's note: Becky dictated this chapter about 3 weeks ago. Today she added these words:]
Since writing the above, it appears that God is extending the day of my departure. This extension brings on a whole new crop of issues. I have to set my heart to determine to trust Him, and I have to settle myself, seeking His glory day by day with whatever measure of strength He gives me. I must continue to practice contentment. Please pray with me that God would be glorified with each passing day.
October 21, 2013