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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Recollecting Chemo & Crepes

Tonight the moon is big. Very big.  A round, bright shining face- like the face of God smiling upon us.  I drive home in silence, soaking in the beauty and pain of all I witnessed this evening, of all that my spirit encountered.  The faces, the stories, the flowers, the songs.  Micah's booming voice still echoing inside of me, ringing glory-profound in my ears.

And then one day
I'll cross that river
I'll fight life's final war with pain
And then as death gives way to vict'ry
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
 ("Because He Lives")


And true it is...she's fought life's final war with pain.  Death has given way to victory, and she surely has seen the lights of glory now.  I'm reminded, once again, that because Christ lives, I can face tomorrow and every tomorrow after that; and my life, my story, has purpose- wrapped up in HIS purpose, packaged in love, hope, and glory eternal. Her story was wrapped up in God's story, for sure, and He was her glory, day by day.  Her calm assurance of faith and her humble, astounding success is a shining testimony to the greatness of our Living King.

...........


It was a blistery winter morning...I picked her up at about nine.  We were heading for her chemo appointment to start a new trial treatment. I'm so glad she called the night before to ask for a ride.  She didn't know it, but that day prior was one of the hardest days for me. I was aching inside, and a day with Cathy was just what my heart needed.  God knew that. He always has the perfect remedy for His children...sometimes it comes in strange packages- like chemo therapy and French crepes. Spending time in the cancer ward at the hospital in Philadelphia was just the thing that could refresh and heal some broken parts of my own spirit that week. That day is now one of my most treasured memories...a gift I surely will never forget.

I had met Cathy maybe five years prior.  We often sat behind her family at church and I would see their tenderness and warmth.  Some time back, we took an evening class together, and in passing exchanged smiles and said prayers, like good church people do. But that day I really got to know her...and oh has knowing her been such a treat! Her stories make novels and the Bourne movies seem like children's tales in comparison. Epic drama of threat, danger, and triumphant courage- a female college student turned lawyer, with steadfast faith and bold prayers. But Cathy had a way of telling her thrilling experiences with such a serenity and humility.  She boasted never of herself- only of her God- He was the hero of all her stories, and of her culminating life story. Even while staring in the face of cancer's imminent danger, He was her anchor, joy, and redeeming hope.

So we went to her appointments that day.  She had such a pleasant countenance with all the doctors and nurses, and she treated me like family.  Cancer is supposed to be a scary, cold thing...something from which to retreat, to take cover and hide. However she had this uncanny gift of turning the cancer ward into a peace-filled atmosphere...because when she walked in, she brought Jesus, and that's all that was needed to make it a day of joy.  Simple joy.  While radiation and chemo flowed through those halls, flowed through so many veins, Cathy was radiating something deeper and something lasting- she emanated the presence of the Healer of body, mind, and soul.  She shone with the Holy Spirit, and all around her was a wave of peace and stability.  In the midst of uncertain lives, bodies breaking, desperation looming...she was certain of her purpose, strong in faith, and absolutely assured of God's working good in the midst of suffering.  She never complained.  She received medication with joy.  She talked of her family with such excitement and pride.  She shared with me gems of present wisdom, stories from the past, and dreams for the future.  We equally tossed back and forth stories, smiles, prayers, and laughter.  How amazing it was- her determination to make the day of chemo a day for crepes! 

At the doctor's restaurant recommendation, we walked block after block in the whipping wind, both of us, our hair tossing and her sore body connected to a treatment bag and some portal contraption. Down to 624 South 6th Street we went, brick building after brick building, city street after city street...Cathy courageously braving the cold, sickness stopping her not a bit. Both of us were sure excited to get some food.  We arrived at Beau Monde, and it was a lovely place.  French onion soup and fantastically delicious crepes.  Our sweet friendship continuing to grow.  I sat there, soaking in the treasure of time with this lovely woman.  I didn't want the day to end- that's just the sort of woman she was, and that's just how she made you feel. The God in her was the truest reality to her being, and her identity was not in anything else (though, she, of all people, could have boasted in many accomplishments and accolades- successful, beautiful, and brilliant). 


Eventually I walked back to get the car (it's a miracle in itself I found my way in the city, suburban girl that I am!) and we drove home.  On our drive back she shared glimpses with  me of her wishes for her funeral...if that day were to come sooner than she hoped.  Don't get me wrong- the woman absolutely believed in God's healing power, but she knew that if for some reason He determined her time to come to go be in glory with Him, she wanted to leave behind an incredible legacy, and a memorial service that would touch lives with the love of Christ.  She told me about a painting she had hired an artist to create- a picturesque landscape near her home with an old farmhouse that looked like heaven on earth.  She talked more about her family and the love she wanted to leave them.  She spoke passionately about her service being one that would reach lives with the message of the cross, the kingdom- of heaven and hope.  It was hard for me to hear this because everything inside of me cried "But God, can't you save her from this horrible cancer? This amazing woman whose life you've already saved twice from peril- can't you do it again a third time, Jesus?" 

Cathy believed He could, most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt.  But she also knew that His sovereign ways are beyond our ways, and that sometimes our Creator uses the suffering that the enemy sets out to steal, kill, and destroy our lives, and turns it into our good and God's glory.  Through trial and suffering, God can touch lives with the compassion and the cross of Christ in a most miraculous way- and that is exactly what happened tonight at 7 Mt. Lebanon Road, with hundreds of people in tears.  God most assuredly was smiling down upon us, face like the moon, shining a crystal clear light in the heat of summer night.  Testimony after testimony recounted the miraculous mercies of God in Cathy's life.  And once again my faith was lifted to another level of marvel. Thank you, Jesus.

To read Cathy's incredible account of God saving her life, not once, but twice, in the face of threat, kidnapping at gun-point, and murder for hire, read her Double Jeopardy article online.  May her testimony touch you.  Her life has touched mine.