Life is Full of Trials

     While we were entrenched in court preparations for the criminal trial much more was going on.  We also had all the legal fees, home visits and prep for the adoption.  Those two things in themselves would have been enough.  But at the same time my best friend was deteriorating.

     Five years before my best friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  For a year she had treated it naturally and it had seemed to be in remission.  Though writing that makes me cringe.  As I doubt it every truly was in remission.  It was actually spreading, moving and growing, unknown to anyone.

     Four years ago she convinced me to move out to her area.  God aligned it all.  A job for my husband, a place for us to live, a community to plug into.  It all lined up.  I could not have known then the importance of being here.  I couldn't have known that God was bringing me here to walk beside my friend as she prepared to say goodbye. Or that he was going to pull a rescue mission and give me a daughter here.  All I knew is that I was moving closer to my best friend from college.

     I pictured lots of fun outings together.  I pictured raising our kids together and gardening.  Well that's not what happened.  We moved here and shortly after she gave birth to her miracle baby and then found out breast cancer was all over her body.  Within six months of moving closer to her she was in an intense battle against the cancer.  I spent many days watching kids, finding ways to help her.  We joked at times that I had become her babysitter, and that we talked more when I had lived in a different state.

     As the years went by and she kept fighting the cancer it became the new norm.  It just seemed like she'd beat it.  She'd keep fighting and she'd win.  During those years she had prayed with me so many times. We had gone on many late night shopping trips so was could actually talk and pray.   It was at her house that we celebrated Easter for the first time with my newest daughter.  She was the one I cried to.  It was in her car in a parking lot that we prayed for wisdom and light to be shown if there was any wrong doing going on.  We had shared so many special moments.

     In the busyness leading up to our trial date we had not had a lot of time together.  She was busy doing oxygen treatments and trying desperately to do all she could to fight the cancer.  I had watched her go through chemo, brain surgery and radiation.  I had seen her moods change as she was put on large doses of steroids. I had seen all this for years, but it just seemed like it would continue to go on and on.  Right as a plea agreement was made in the criminal case I got the call that there was nothing more that could be done for Danielle medically.  The doctors had given her 9 months to live.

     I paced the hallway and cried.  How could that be true.  How could the doctors know or say that. I wrote in my journal that only God could number her days.  I desperately wanted God to heal her.  I wanted the cancer to disappear.  I wanted to celebrate my daughter's adoption with her. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

     From the day trial preparation ended till the day she died was only 10 days.  Only 10 days.  I didn't get 9 more months to talk with her and pray with her.  I got 10 days.  But in those 10 days I was with her constantly.  God provided friends to watch my kids so I could go and sit with her.   One morning she was wheeled into church, and she needed to use the bathroom.  So I wheeled her into the big handicap stall.  She asked me to stay with her as she was afraid of falling or having a seizure.  So I stayed with her and we laughed as she sang "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even wipe my butt." Even in this very private, very uncomfortable moment she made me laugh and showed her reliance on Jesus. As she deteriorated over those ten days there were times that I would have to help her into her chair and we would "dance" to the chair as she called it.  I tried to make her comfortable by rubbing her back and putting lotion on her, making sure her praise music didn't stop.  She amazed me with her smile in the midst of pain.  Her praise in the midst of it all. At first she could still talk to me, still knew who I was.  As the 10 days went on she couldn't talk as much, and her pain increased.  

     10 days after we sat in the court room watching God vindicate an orphan we sat in Danielle's living room and watched as God took her home to be with him, where she'd be fully healed and restored.  It was not the ending I wanted.  It was heart wrenching to sit and see her son crying out because his mommy was gone.  To have her gone was more than I wanted to bear.  So many of my memories included her.  She was there as a prayer warrior and friend for so many years.  I wanted God to heal her.  I wanted a miracle story.  Surely God could have been glorified in that.  I still struggle to see his plan, his ways.  But, I've come to see clearly that through every trial he is present.  He comforts those who mourn.  It's not just a nice little Bible verse.  It's true.  When I've cried until my chest aches I feel him there.  He reminds me that this is not the end.  He whispers to me that he did heal her, that she's completely healed in heaven.  He reminds me that I will see her again.  He comforts my heart. 

     In all honesty that doesn't make the pain stop.  Twenty four days later we celebrated our daughter being officially adopted.  When I scanned the court room of all the friends and loved ones that came to celebrate with us my chest felt heavy and my throat burned with un-shed tears.  She wasn't there to celebrate with us.  My eldest daughter reminded me she was still celebrating with us, but from heaven.  I know I thought, but that doesn't change the fact that I wanted her there in person.  It doesn't change the fact that every time I pass the group picture on our wall I feel it looks incomplete, as her husband stands out tall and alone, she should be at his side. 

     Now it's been 9 months.  The time the doctors said she'd have.  A lot has happened in these 9 months.  There's been 5 birthdays between our families.  Our children have grown and changed.  I've learned more about surrender and about how the love of God surpasses my understanding. He is so patient with me.  As I complain, and wish away my trials, he shows me love. When my thoughts get ugly and I have a hard time rejoicing when someone else is healed from cancer, because she wasn't, he understands and again shows me love.  He helps me to remember that all life has value and that he does not place higher value on one person over another.  He reminds me that he numbers our days, and if I would accept him numbering them longer, I must also accept when they are shorter. He helps me to remember to rejoice, that she would have.  That she is.  She is currently rejoicing and praising God in heaven.

     When I can fix my eyes on the eternal God and remember that these trials are temporary it changes everything.  I will have eternity to be with Danielle in God's presence.  Though this time can feel heavy and hard, it is short compared to eternity.  If only I could always have eternity in mind, but I don't.  I fail.  I get caught up in my trials, cause you know what,  I'm human and that's okay.  God still loves me and still leads me and points the way patiently waiting for me to follow.


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