Surprising Graces – Part 1

A few months ago, Grace Feltoe suggested I write a blog series based on what was going on in my life. The trouble was, there was so much going on at the time even as I prayed about it, I just couldn’t find the energy to write anything. I told myself, let it go, and in a few months, I’ll have a clearer head to be able to write. Well, months down the track I’ve learned life doesn’t always get less hectic, things don’t always ease the way you anticipate. So here is to writing and sharing lessons in amidst the crazy. 

At the end of April, I headed to the hospital to visit someone I love dearly who has been in and out of hospital many times, only to hear her utter the words I knew I would one day hear but would never be prepared for ‘I’m dying… and I have weeks left’. A terminal diagnosis. I remember my heart broke for a moment. As we sat together holding hands, and as I swallowed my broken heart so that I could ask her ‘and how are you holding up?’, she dropped her worried look and instead her face lit up as she looked even more deeply at me and smiled saying, ‘I’m excited to go home to God!’. 

One sentence broke my heart, and yet the very next put my heart back together again.

Her hope was in a place so much higher than I could recall in that moment. Here she was, a dying woman, witnessing true faith to me once more.  We sat and smiled, and laughed and joked with each other, but also spoke about some hard conversations she would need to have with others who would take the news with a lot of tears and anger, and she wanted to be present to console them in that. Again, a dying woman concerned not for herself but for those around her and wanting to support them in their grief. 

I left the hospital room that day with a smile on my face, to mirror the gratitude of her witness to me, back to her, in the hopes it would encourage her and give her strength. But, I also remember pulling that door closed behind me as I left, and my heart began to break again. With every step back to the elevator everything seemed quiet, no noises around and the walk was long. The elevator felt like the longest, most lonely and sobering elevator trip down to the parking lot. The rest of the day was so surreal. I knew this day would come, I didn’t know when or how but I knew it would come. I didn’t realise how sad it would make me, nor did I realise how much my heart would expand to love her even more. 

The first 2 months were so intense.

We had family around at every turn, every moment of the day and night. Many frustrations, arguments, and a LOT of emotion from everyone in a whole range and manner of ways. Grieving has that effect. It’s a wave of the worst and the best of us coming to the fore. Different people at different stages. We treated each day like it was the last, and every morning with gratitude for one more ‘Good Morning’ with her. The days became harder and longer not because there were more tasks on us, but because it was harder to keep her comfortable and pain free. 

What I didn’t anticipate was how full the days would be with graces.

Graces of peace and joy for her, expansion of love for us, kindness and generosity of spirit for those who visited, and healing from those who came to pray for her. 8 weeks flew by, because God gave us all the graces we needed to get through each day, and with each new day he restocked the strength we all needed to play our part. 

It’s easy to look back on moments like this and recall the beauty and goodness that was present, it’s much harder and more important to notice them as we’re living in them. The beauty of being a podcast host for Living Fullness has meant practicing noticing God’s truth, beauty and goodness every day, and I’m so grateful for that because without it, I may have missed so many moments that were gifted to us. It also meant there were consolations at every step, not because people said comforting words at every turn, but because God was moving, and it was tangibly seen and felt. There were miracles happening every week that her and I would talk about when every one else had left or gone to bed. Treasured moments. Grace-filled moments. Even as death is near, joy is not stolen.

Written by

Stina Constantine – Founder and Manager of Virtue Ministry

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