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     "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."(2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)

      Five years ago, my husband lost his father to cancer. About a year or so before his death, Art’s parents had moved to the area so they could be close to us--well, close to their son and grand kids, anyway...

      It was well-known within our family and circles of friends that there were inter-relational problems between all of the kids and my husband's parents. Like almost any family, we all struggled with trying to get along despite disagreements and hardships. But, because my husband married me, a divorcee with two children in tow, I was not considered a desirable prospect for their son in the beginning. I was not very-well liked by my in-laws.

      In all honesty, I do understand the parental concern they had. I really do. And, simply out of respect for my mother-in-law, I will not even bring any specific examples to mind.  Let's just say it wasn't good. It was stressful more often than not. Only one time in 15 years did I open my mouth in protest and disrespect to them. I regretted it instantly, but, at the time, was not being well-defended, and they were living in my home. Still, they were my husband’s parents. I was frustrated with their snap judgments and sometimes hurtful treatment of me. I know in my heart that, even though poorly-communicated, it came from a good place.  They loved their son. It was hard.

      That being said, several years later, and still trying to work on our relationships, my husband's Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Several years later, a few cancer surgeries and many chemotherapy treatments behind him, my father-in-law relapsed. The cancer was in his liver and colon now. He started going down hill fast in the winter of 2005. On the advice of his oncologists and family, the decision was made to stop all treatments and begin palliative (or hospice) care at home. Palliative orders are implemented when it appears that the cancer is unstoppable, and the patient’s death is imminent. It is all about maintaining the patient’s comfort and dignity, and controlling their pain.

      He was initially under the continuous care of his wife, who had waited on him hand-and-foot for almost 50 years. My mother-in-law was an awesome wife. She dedicated her life to him, and obviously was very serious about that vow. My father-in-law was well cared-for and treated like a king. I seriously would be shocked if David ever had to refill his glass or iron a single napkin.

      I will never forget his last week in this Place. On a Friday afternoon, we took him to see his doctors as he was suffering with pain, dehydration, and profound fatigue. They hydrated him with IV fluids, and sent him home where he would receive palliative care. "There is nothing more to be done," They said.

      Upon arriving home after his appointment, it took every bit of energy we had to get him upstairs. I was trying to support him on one side, and I feared he was going to topple over, down the cement stairs that led to their second-story apartment. At one point, I gave one last shove in a desperate attempt to keep from falling. My back and legs were on fire. He tore his arm away from me and growled, "Get away!" I was crushed, but kept holding him up. I was just trying to help.

      It was very stressful and sad, and seemed too quick. My husband and I made phone calls and urged family to make the trek from New England to see their Dad. "We think this is 'it,' " I remember my husband pleading on the phone. Over the next couple of days, his children, grandchildren and a few siblings rushed to Virginia, to be by David's side.

      David, initially, was in so much pain. The prescribed narcotics did not seem to have any effect whatsoever. A hospital bed was brought in, and home health nurses were dispatched to care for him when my mother-in-law needed to rest. He was restless and breathless at times. He would drop off to sleep randomly like a narcoleptic. With a start, he would bounce back to consciousness, often seemingly mid-conversation with someone unseen. His breathing patterns changed. His skin started turning gray. He was freezing cold one minute, and burning up the next. He was miserable.

      To support our family, some good friends mobilized. Without asking, they established and coordinated a schedule of meals and help. My good friend Sherry stopped in a few times just to bathe him. Our pastor and others stopped by to pray with him. Like Living Water, a steady stream of support poured through that house. Day-in, and day-out.

      At times, an awkward heaviness would fill the room and the conversation would die down. No one slept very well. We all felt helpless and like we were all "just sitting around," on some bizarre, macabre Death Watch of some kind. My mother-in-law was giving him a pedicure one evening, when something funny struck me about that. I said to him, "David...getting your feet ready to stand on holy ground?" He said to me, without hesitation, "You bet. Absolutely."

      Three days prior to his death, he was having a really rough day. The pain was uncontrollable, and spiraling out of control. He could not rest or relax at all. At one point, he became so cold, he violently shuddered from head to toe, as if he were having a seizure.

      David's new-found friend, Bill ( a 21-year cancer survivor), and his wife Deb, had just stopped by. Bill had impacted David's life in the short time they had become close friends; almost brothers. Bill encouraged David, prayed with him, and empathized with him. Bill had lead David to Jesus and Salvation only a few months earlier. That afternoon, they helped us "cocoon" him up in a soft, cream-colored fleece blanket. He looked like a giant burrito.

Or a chrysalis.

      My friend Deb said, in her liquid Southern Virginia drawl, "Why, David...y'all look like a caterpillar all wrapped up like that..." We all snickered a little bit. The thought hit me in the head as if it were something tangible: a BRICK, maybe? I turned to Deb, and said, "Yeah, but...y'all know what comes out of a cocoon, right?" Deb and Bill smiled: "A beautiful butterfly." A few tears were shed, and David drifted off into a beautiful deep, deep sleep for almost three hours. He had not slept that long in awhile. A very long while.

      When David woke up, we unwrapped him and hiked him up in his bed. He looked...surprisingly good. He smiled at everyone around him. He was breathing normally. His color had markedly improved, and he was completely out of pain. Praise God!

      This was the beginning of David's "rally." For the next three days, he was surrounded by family and friends. He told jokes, he recounted things long forgotten. He laughed. I did not realize that my father-in-law could be such a comedian! He even sang. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my life. David, indeed, had turned into that beautiful butterfly. An image of the purity of God's undimmed and perfect Love. He was a new creation. My father-in-law had morphed in those three hours, and became who he was always ordained to be: in the raw fullness of God's Grace.

      At one point, when we were packing up to head home for the evening, he was peacefully drifting in and out. He hugged me and said,

      "I love you, you know. I love that you love my son. I love that you are such a good wife and good mom to my grand kids...you and Art: your kids are amazing, and you are doing a wonderful job...thank you for loving them so much."

      I was frozen in time. I paused for about ten seconds as the earth came to a screeching halt. This was a man who seemed very upset and even disgusted by me most times. I just grabbed on to that and cried.

      Over the next couple of days, we all reconnected; we all held together and reconciled some things. Moments forever etched on my heart. We gathered around David, and he told story-after-story. In the midst of his slumbers, if someone in the room said, upon getting ready to leave, "Let's pray," my father-in-law would raise his hands Heavenward, and not even open his eyes. He prayed at the mere mention of it. We joked with him about waiting for Jesus to finally come and pick him up. He would say things like, "Oh, I am ready to go home." During a few excruciatingly tender moments, my mother-in-law, would just weep into his chest, "What am I going to do without you, David? What am I to do?" He looked at her, face set like a flint, and said, "Jo...Love never ends." She spent many minutes, curled up beside him, crying and laughing in the same minute, with the only man she ever loved.

      David died on a Wednesday. Earlier that day, at 3:00 a.m. on the dot, David woke with a start. "Listen to those geese!" he shouted out. The geese he had been watching for months in his back yard were out, honking and squawking. At 3:00 a.m.! They never did this. He just lay there, smiling. My mother-in-law said, "David...maybe God sent you the geese to sing to you before you go." He just looked at her, was silent again for a few seconds as the geese outside seemed to be losing their minds: "They did. They came because they knew." More hot tears, pouring down every one's faces.

      About 12 hours later, David drifted to sleep peacefully. No more pain. No more crying. Nothing left undone. He died at 4:45 p.m. with a smile on his face, and surrounded by people whom he loved; and who loved him. My heart broke into a thousand pieces watching my mother-in-law mourn. My heart shattered when my husband raced to their home and dropped to his knees at his Dad's bedside, a few minutes too late. He frantically grabbed his father's purpling, still hand. "Dad..." his voice cracking and squeaking, "I love you SO much..." I was afraid to look at my husband, petrified that his tears would paralyze me. Or, I would drown in them.

      After a few moments of hushed words and weeping, my husband just stood up and I held him for awhile. "I'm so sorry, Honey..." was all I could manage to get out. He just leaned on me for a few minutes, and said, "He's with Jesus, now. He's ok."

      That was all that needed to be said. For David, his chrysalis had broken open by a loving God. A God who desires us most of all to reflect His Glory, and be released into a freedom we barely, if at all, understand.

      "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."(2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)

Copyright © 2008-2015 Jodi Crago

Reader Comments...
2010-06-01 17:51:28

The very first article I read was yours. It touched me with to tears. Always your articles minister and touch me. I love you in the Lord and don't ever stop writing.

As my grand kids say Love U Much,"
        - Linda

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