Written by Karen Carlson
When death takes a spouse, the surviving husband or wife can be thrown into the depths of depression and a feeling that life has to come to an end for the survivor, as well. There are some people, though, who possess a kind of strength that almost surpasses human understanding.
My uncle was happily married to his wife of Macey for 35 years. They had the kind of relationship the rest of us would envy. Even after 35 years of marriage, holding hands, kisses on the cheek, and sharing an on-going sense of humor with one another were everyday occurrences that set them apart from so many other couples I knew in my life. People would marvel at their happiness. Their marriage was truly a marriage made in Heaven, as the adage goes.
My Aunt Macey was a wonderful mother and had a vitality that would put any teenager to shame. She gardened, taught full-time as an elementary teacher, played the piano and the violin and had a zest for life that few would have the stamina to emulate. She was nothing short of amazing.
My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer; and a biopsy indicated the cancer was a very aggressive form, yet the doctor still felt the prognosis was promising. The oncologist, however, told my aunt that the tumor needed to be treated very forcefully and that a mastectomy would be the best possible option to increase the chances of continued good health. Additional test results, including those for the lymph nodes looked good, though proactive chemotherapy was administered. My aunt was a trooper and endured the chemotherapy with nothing less than a positivity in-spite of the fact there were days that were truly difficult. My uncle was there for her every step of the way. Once the treatments were finally over, my aunt and uncle felt the worst was finally behind them. They had weathered the storm and life could go back to normal. My aunt went back to work; she and her husband breathed a sigh of relief—life was good again.
A Year Later:
God can surprise us at times, and sometimes not make sense. It was a year later that another tumor was discovered. The doctors felt the cancer had not spread. The tumor was removed and additional chemotherapy treatment was administered, yet again. My aunt, at this point, acted scared for the first time I could ever recall. This solidified fortress of a human being I referred to as my “Auntie”, was beginning to crumble and I could see it in her eyes.
The amazing thing, however, was the immense love my aunt and uncle continued to share with one another. One of the immense blessings this couple had was the unconditional love and affection they continued to display for one another. Their relationship didn’t weaken; in fact, by God’s grace, it became only stronger. I think any of us know couples which, when faced with dire adversity, fall apart at the seams; and I totally get that. For my aunt and uncle, however, their relationship gained even more potency—I would not have believed that had I not seen it for myself.
Interestingly, the loss of my aunt’s hair was far more traumatizing than the loss of her breast a year before. She wore a wig and still looked beautiful to my entire family but I could see in my aunt’s eyes that she was beginning to give up.
My aunt became increasingly ill and in-spite of that, she rarely complained. Yes, she was a fighter, but she was going downhill quickly. My uncle had (and still has) a very personal relationship with Christ, but even his faith was beginning to waver a bit. He would ask, “What is God doing here?” and “Why is all this happening to us?” when my uncle started to question God’s reasoning, he told me it never lasted long because he knew, in-spite of the tremendous trials he and my aunt were going through, that God’s love was real and there was a purpose for this challenge—they just didn’t know what it was.
When my aunt died, my uncle, though devastated, had an inner strength I will never forget. He told the rest of the family,“ I know I will never have the answers to my ‘Why?’ questions, but there is one thing I will refuse to do to God—I will refuse to be bitter with Him. Instead of rejecting Him, I’ll run to Him; and not only that, I’ll fall into His arms.” My uncle then opened his Bible and read one verse to all of us that he said helped him to understand that his understanding of God was designed to be beyond his capability of grasping. He read Isaiah 55:8-9—“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” My uncle then said, “I want to say one thing to the Lord. I just feel compelled: “Lord, I’ve got a big hole inside of my heart. Please fill it with your presence.” That’s all he said. There wasn’t a dry eye in our living room when he shared that—even among family members that were not believers in Christ. His selfless love for my Auntie and his spiritual strength and unyielding faith were especially riveting for all of us that day. His inner peace and uncompromising trust in Christ impacted every family of our member, without exception.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this: My uncle’s relationship with Auntie is simply on hiatus—he will see her again and be with her again; and the thing that keeps him going is his knowing Auntie will be waiting for him!
Psalms 118: 1, 13,14—
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, his love endures forever.”
“I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength…”