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Update: March 5, 2016

Posted on: March 5th, 2016 by Christy Jansma

Dear Church,

It’s been a month since Connie took her last breath and the curtain was drawn on our life together. This is the most difficult experience of my life, especially when I think about navigating a future alone. Two weeks before the end she gifted me with a journal of reflections on our life together, that she had dictated to our girls as a surprise for me. In it she concludes: “I’m seeing our ministry together coming to an end. Since April I have recognized that my ministry has changed. It has changed from a ministry of doing to a ministry of being and that is changing for you as well. I have so loved serving the Lord with you together. Keep running your race, keeping your eyes focused on Jesus.” What a daunting finale to this treasure!

With the object to begin the journey of emotional healing I headed west on a road trip, following my first week at home alone. Without a firm schedule I packed a change of clothes, my Bible and a few books. Connie always enjoyed our road trips, I think because driving together for hours created a context for some of our best conversations. So heading out alone was heart wrenching and took all the courage I could muster.

Grieving is a lonely journey. It can’t be rushed. While supported by faithful friends, no one can take this journey for me. Experiencing our own losses, each of us must find our own healing. The Psalms have become meaningful prayers resonating deeply in my soul. I reread A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis and a helpful book by Norman Wright, Experiencing Grief. While the healing journey will take more than a road trip or a Leave of Absence, I look forward to rejoining you in April to take up my duties and begin this “new normal”. Thank you for your kindness in granting me this Leave of Absence.

Recently I sensed the Lord directing me to a helpful insight. It was during a walk around the seawall perimeter of Stanley Park on a misty morning, as I found myself reliving some of the past visits Connie and I had made to Vancouver. My eyes wet with tears, I mourned the reality that none of them can ever be repeated. Never again will Connie and I share a road trip to anywhere, or share any experience. My future with her has been wrenched away. But, and here’s the insight, with God’s gift of memory I am able to recall and, to some measure, to relive those occasions. I have a mental file full of shared events to draw from, giving me reasons to be thankful. I admit that it wasn’t easy to be thankful when, at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, I ate alone within sight of the table where we sat just two years ago. It wasn’t easy to be thankful when I pulled over at Harvie Heights (near Canmore) and remembered our honeymoon ending at the Rundle Ridge Chalets, still standing as they were. Those were wrenching moments. I’m not suggesting it’s easy to do, but I believe that healing is found in cherishing the memories of our shared past rather than mourning the loss of a future together. THANK YOU LORD. Please pray that this can become my habit on the journey to healing.

As I draw these “updates” to a conclusion, I reflect on God’s amazing grace and his faithfulness to us, especially through these last months. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His loves endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1,29). As difficult as this cancer journey has been I invite you to rejoice with me in these answers to prayer:

THANK YOU LORD for answering the elders’ prayer in April that allowed us within a week to know that we were dealing with cancer, and the mystery of pain was resolved.

THANK YOU LORD that the lung cancer metastasized to the bone and not to the brain, which would have resulted in an ugly and difficult ending for Connie.

THANK YOU LORD for our superb Canadian health care system that gave us immediate attention and for government policy that covers all medical costs.

THANK YOU LORD for the oncologist who moved to Lethbridge just in time for Connie to be one of his first patients, avoiding long and taxing drives to Calgary.

THANK YOU LORD that there were no ugly symptoms of lung cancer as is usually the case i.e. excessive coughing, hoarse voice, coughing blood.

THANK YOU LORD for the first class care from our medical team, from surgery in April through to treatments at the Cancer Centre to palliative and home care at the end.

THANK YOU LORD that during chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments there was no fevers requiring a trip to the Emergency Room, as is often the case.

THANK YOU LORD for deep and meaningful conversations with many friends and family over the months of Connie’s illness.

THANK YOU LORD that Connie was able to enjoy and participate in Ruth and Luke’s wedding, seeing all of our children married before her departure.

THANK YOU LORD for the love and care of our church family who repeatedly blessed us and demonstrated what it means to live in Christian community.

THANK YOU LORD for the evidence of faith among our children and it’s strengthening as we have walked this journey of suffering and loss.

THANK YOU LORD for a strong church staff and leadership who have pulled together in unity during this time of unprecedented challenge.

THANK YOU LORD for the family togetherness we have enjoyed in these months, and without conflicts—10 years of family time packed into 10 months.

THANK YOU LORD that Connie was able to embraced her diagnosis with a peace that surpasses all human comprehension and without fear of death.

THANK YOU LORD for a marriage without regrets, helping us to face this loss with courage and acceptance.

THANK YOU LORD for the extra time together as Connie exceeded the 8-month median for Stage 4 lung cancer.

THANK YOU LORD that Connie died peacefully, without a gasping struggle for breath or with excessive pain.

THANK YOU LORD that Connie took her final breath at home, as was her desire.

THANK YOU LORD for a rich and deeply meaningful funeral service, fulfilling the plans that Connie had put in place.

THANK YOU LORD for mild winter weather enabling people from a distance to travel on dry roads and a graveside committal that did not need to be rushed.

THANK YOU LORD for the energy and grace that you gave me so that I could be Connie’s caregiver over her 10 months of illness.

THANK YOU LORD for the donors who contributed to the Lawson Legacy, enabling us to surpass the initial goal and touch the lives of moms and babies in Nicaragua for eternity.

Choosing to be thankful through the pain,

Ian

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