My sister Lynette fought cancer for 9 years. During those nine years, there were a lot of ups and downs. Times of sadness and times of joy. Things that I wish that I could change. I can’t go back in time and change those things. So I will focus on one thing that is always true, God’s faithfulness. He is always with us. The bible doesn’t say “if you have trials,” but when you have trials. We will have trials in our daily lives. We can have the assurance that he walks with us. We can always trust in him. My favorite bible verse is Phillippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” During hard times, it is easy to try to do things by ourselves. By giving it to God, we can have peace that can only come from Him.
In 1997, at the age of 25, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. She was cancer-free for about six years. During this time, she started classes to receive her nurse’s degree. However, cancer came back in her bones and lungs. For the next three years, she fought and endured chemotherapy again. She worked as a CNA on the mother and baby floor. She loved her job! However, she was slowly losing mobility in her left arm and hand due to radiation of the lymph nodes, so she had to quit her job. In May 2006, she was told that chemotherapy was no longer an option. Her body just had enough.
She made a comment to a friend that one of her regrets was not taking her kids to Disneyworld. Her church learned of this, and a trip was quickly planned so she could fulfill her dream to take her kids to Florida! She really wanted the trip to fall over July 4th, but due to schedule conflicts, her flight was scheduled for July 6th. I saw her on Father’s Day and we talked about how excited she was! The plan was for her two children, Lynette, Charlene (my twin sister) and our mom to fly to Florida. Michelle, the coordinator of the trip, made all the arrangements. During the next several weeks, her health got worse. I received a phone call from Charlene to come to Omaha because mom needed a break to get ready for the trip. I decided to go and help my family. Even though Charlene had warned me, I was not prepared to see Lynette in the condition that she was in. When I arrived, mom was feeding Lynette and she was very weak and she fell asleep very easily. However, she still managed to make jokes and give me a hard time! She laughed with me when I had trouble getting her oxygen tubes inserted correctly. I wasn’t that great of a nurse!
I was so impressed by her children, Amanda (15 years) and Justin (9 years), and how well they interacted with their mom. They treated their mom with so much compassion, gentleness, and love! Early the next day we headed to the airport. Even though Lynette was nervous, she was determined to make this trip a reality for her kids! At the airport she needed a wheelchair, so they were first to board the plane. When it was time for her to board the plane, dad and I said our goodbyes. She was confused and got upset because she thought we were coming along. I told her that I was not going because I had to go back to Iowa. Dad told her that he had to work and take care of the houses. I later found out that it took several minutes for her to calm down once on the plane. As I left the airport, I couldn’t help but wish that this trip had been planned weeks earlier or even the summer before!
As I pulled into the gas station on the way out of town, I received a phone call from Charlene. She shared with me the events that were unfolding. As they were exiting the plane at their layover, a stewardess had come up to them and told them that a man wanted to talk to them. Of course, mom and Charlene were baffled! They walked down the terminal a bit and the man who sat next to mom had witnessed the exchange at the Omaha airport. He wanted to buy my dad and me a plane ticket to join them in Florida. Mom convinced him that I had to go back to Iowa to be with my family, but he insisted on buying my dad a plane ticket. He even asked to speak to him on the phone, but my dad still politely refused and told him that he had to work. However, the man went ahead and bought him a ticket anyway. He had it available at the Omaha airport. A complete stranger who “happened” to witness the exchange at the airport and “happened” to sit beside them, bought my dad a plane ticket!
My mom again called my dad and told him that this man was adamant and for some reason, he needed to join them. Finally, my dad talked to his boss and he decided to accept the man’s offer. The next morning was his flight to Florida. When he arrived at the airport, he had missed his flight. His flight was two hours earlier. So, he had to take a later flight with a different layover. During his layover, he “happened” to see his sister-in-law while walking to his gate. He had enough time to talk to her about the trip and about the man that bought him this ticket. The next two days they went to the Magic Kingdom, went swimming at the resort, went to a Disney character lunch, and went on some rides. On Sunday the kids told grandma and grandpa to take a break and get away by themselves. They could take care of their mom with Aunt Charlene. How sweet was that!
While they were gone, Lynette’s condition got worse and the hospice nurse came. Dad rode with the hospice nurse and mom rode along in the ambulance. Before leaving, Amanda told her mom that she had fun. Lynette replied, “me too.” This left Charlene and the kids 30 minutes away from the hospice center. So, my parents called Michelle so she could arrange a ride for them. She simply looked on the internet for a service to drive them to the care center. On the way, the driver asked who they were visiting. He asked if their mom would be fine, Charlene told him no. After dropping them off, he called Michelle and told her that he would pray for the family. On Monday, my parents decided that they needed a rental car. So again, they called Michelle. She called a car rental service and explained the situation. He picked up my dad at the hospice center and they drove back to the rental station. Before driving back, the man gave my dad a map so he could drive back to the hospice center without any problems! He then called Michelle and told him that he would pray for the family. Of all the companies that she could have called, she “happened” to call these companies with caring and compassionate employees! The next day, Lynette passed away with her family by her side. They flew back to Omaha later that day.
Lynette and my parents wanted this service to be a celebration. It was bittersweet, but just what she wanted. I got to know Lynette a bit better that day. Several friends of hers spoke about how she helped them even though she was going through her own struggle with cancer. A friend talked about how she had been put on bed rest when she was pregnant and Lynette came over with a meal for her. Her pastor spoke about Lynette’s involvement with an annual Christmas pageant that the church puts on each year. Lynette had always wanted to be involved with this ministry but was always too busy with work to be able to attend all of the practices and performances. So, when she couldn’t work any longer, she applied to be in the performance. He read from her application on how she wanted to be an angel. She wanted to be a flying angel, but she knew that due to her arm she could not do this. She ended up being an angel that stood right behind the manager. She so wanted to be able to move both arms together, but she was only able to move one arm. She and a friend prayed that she would be able to move her whole left arm. During one performance, she was able to move her left arm! When she got to the backstage, Lynette and her friend teared up because they knew that they had just witnessed a miracle! Lynette wanted the song, “Come to Jesus” to be sung at her service. The words remind me that we can always go to Him. We can reach out to him in times of sadness and times of joy. He is always there for us.
Even though this journey was incredibly hard, I know that God was with us every step of the way! The trip was not so much about the fact that a man purchased a plane ticket for dad, but about someone listening and following what God had placed on his heart. For without this man obeying, my dad would not have spent those last few days with Lynette. Through this journey, His power was made so evident that I know without a shadow of a doubt that he is the great director of our lives. I don’t believe in coincidences. We can only see now, but God can see what is ahead and orchestrates events for His glory. Some of the things he does for us may not be very obvious, but other times he makes his presence very known! We can have the assurance that God is with us and that he will never leave us! Without faith, there is no hope. But with faith, there is hope.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I still miss her. I still wish that she was here with us. I can have peace knowing that she is with our risen Savior and that someday I will see her again!