Thought I would write about the spectacular and unusual time in which my family and I are living. Someday I’ll look back on this and thank God He got me through it, for sure.
Week before last, we buried my sister-in-law, Nancy, who passed away quite unexpectedly.
Nancy had been unhealthy for a long time; a severe diabetic, she’d had problems associated with that, such as kidney failure. Several weeks before her passing, though, she’d contracted calciphylaxis, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “a serious, uncommon disease in which calcium accumulates in small blood vessels of the fat and skin tissues. Calciphylaxis causes blood clots, painful skin ulcers and may cause serious infections that can lead to death.”
She was not only in great pain, but the swelling behind her eyes had caused her to go blind.
I mentioned the disease to my buddy Dave, who is my cohost for our video podcast, Out of the Grave with Rob and Dave, and he said, “Dude, my mom died of that. She had it for five months and then passed away.” Nancy actually died from a blood clot which moved to her heart, but the last time my wife, Laura, and I talked to her, she was suffering BAD from calciphylaxis.
“I’m in so much pain, Laura,” Nancy cried (as in literally “cried”) when we talked to her a few days before her death. Laura said, “Oh, I know you are, I’m so sorry!” and began to cry herself. We both just felt so bad for her, and saying, “We’ll be praying for you” seemed like such a terribly lacking response, but it’s all we could say, and that we loved her.
Laura and her younger sister, Audra, decided to make the 8+ hour trip to Indiana to visit, not knowing if this was the last time they’d ever see her. They both met Katherine, Nancy’s daughter, at the hospital, and tried to talk to Nancy. She couldn’t open her eyes or speak, but she squeezed their hand, and then started to cry.
She knew they were in the room, but had not the strength to verbally reply. A few hours later, as the entire family raced back to the hospital, Nancy passed into the glorious and waiting arms of Jesus. She was 60 years old.
So, as many of us who were able made the trek to Indiana for the funeral. When I got home, my son, Trey, told me our neighbor and friend, Joey, had stopped by, needing to talk to me. We got back from Indiana late Friday, and I was exhausted, and not knowing if Joey would even be awake, I went to bed.
The next day he came to the house, and then started crying. His brother, Alan, had went into the hospital a few days before, after suffering a heart attack. Details are sketchy for me, and I haven’t wanted to bother Joey asking for specifics, but he did say Alan had a dangerous spike in potassium levels, and needed some type of surgery, but was “too skinny” to survive the procedure, according to the doctor.
Through his tears, Joey said, “Welp, just pray for me. Alan died,” and then he lost it again. I hugged him, without saying anything for a moment, before he continued. “He was only 53, Rob. I don’t understand. He died from the same thing, in the same room, with the same doctor and on the same day as our mom, just a year later.”
This was stunning. I recall how lost Joey and Alan felt after their mom passed. She seemed like such a sweet lady. Then Joey asked me a question which took me a minute to formulate a response:
“You ever just feel like God has it out for you? That’s the way I feel.”
I took a second before replying, asked the Lord for a response, and then said, “No, God doesn’t have it out for you, man, the devil does. You probably know the story of Job, but if you look closely at the first two chapters, you’ll read about Satan going to God and asking Him for permission to attack Job. There’s our first clue at the sheer POWER of God: the devil had to ASK for the Lord’s permission to bring trials and tribulations on Job.”
I paused a sec for that to sink in, and then continued, “God basically told Satan that He would allow the attack, but said He KNEW Job was strong enough to survive. The Lord allowed this because He knew Job could handle it. God’s allowing you to be attacked because He KNOWS you’re strong enough to endure it. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck, because it TOTALLY does, but you can get through this, man. I know you can.”
Then Joey told me an amazing story. “Alan was in a coma,” he related, wiping his tears, “and the doctor kept telling him REALLY LOUDLY to wake up. He would almost scream, ‘WAKE UP! ALAN, WAKE UP!’ but he didn’t wake up. When the doctor left I tried it. I yelled, ‘ALAN, WAKE UP! IT’S YOUR BROTHER, JOEY, WAKE UP!’
“And then Alan opened his eyes just a tiny bit. I told him if he could understand me, blink one time, and he did. I said, ‘Alan, right now, ask Jesus into your heart! Ask Him to forgive you of your sins!’ So then a minute later, I asked him if he did that, and he blinked once. He did it, Rob. Then he went back into the coma and died pretty soon after that.”
I said, “You always call me ‘Pastor Rob,’ but YOU led your brother to the Lord on his deathbed, Joey! That was ALL YOU, man! That’s amazing! I’ve never had anything like happen, not even CLOSE!”
So I guess by now, Nancy and Alan are probably acquainted, sitting on the porch in rocking chairs, relishing in the bliss of eternity.
On to the last point of our “trifecta of weirdness” lately: my amazing daughter-in-law, Maria, is pregnant, and due at some point in the next three weeks. For those who have been with me a while, you may recall a year ago July 13, my granddaughter, Rosalee, Trey and Maria’s daughter, being delivered stillborn when Maria was 24 weeks pregnant. That was the single-most horrible, terrible, heartbreaking and sickening event our family ever suffered.
There was so much anger and sadness the day it happened, and I still can’t get my family’s reactions out of my head:
Laura, sobbing and screaming over the phone, “Oh, Trey…no…NO!…STILLBORN!!!”
My daughter, Jessy, kicking the door as she burst into tears, “Gosh dangit! GOSH DANGIT!!!”
My precious grandchildren, Joshy (age 8 at the time) and Jenna (age 3), running into Laura and Jessy’s arms, both crying, “Mommy, she’s dead! This wasn’t supposed to happen, Nana! She’s our cousin!!!”
God help me, I wish I could get those voices out of my head, but I can’t. A few days later, Trey carried Rosalee’s casket from the hearse to her final resting place.
Trey and I both wrote poems for her, and I swear, one of the hardest things either of us has ever done is stand up there by the casket and read the poems. I still don’t know how we got through it, but we did.
Fast-forward one year:
Maria is set to POP at any moment! I can’t wait to hold my second grandson! Little Jenna—now a very precocious four years old—says, “I just wanna squeeze his little cheeks, and kiss ’em!”
The way Laura and I explain it is, “We have four grandkids: two on Earth, one in Heaven, and one who is about to be born.” We’re getting ready to celebrate the birthdays of both Trey and Maria’s children, one of whom we’ll soon get to meet, and the other who’s waiting for us in Heaven.
What a wild mixture of emotions.
Why did God allow Nancy and Alan to die so young? Why did He decide Rosalee was too beautiful, too perfect for this Earth, and bring her on home to live with Him? I’d love to drop some knowledge right here, reassuring many of you who have been through SO much, but I have nothing, save this:
God is faithful, and will never leave us or forsake us.
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
While we suffer the agony of burying friends and relatives, as well as the ecstasy of bringing new ones into the world, and even when we don’t feel like going on ourselves, please remember: God will never fail us or abandon us. He’s allowed your current trial, not because He has it out for you, but because He KNOWS you’re strong enough to make it through! He has way more confidence in us than we have in ourselves, to be certain. We can hold this near and dear to our hearts as we traverse the valleys of both life and death.
Thanks for reading. Blessings.