Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

Written by: Paul Wipf on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Posted with permission, Written by Micheal Wollman. Allan Sask. CA.

I used to think cancer was a bad word, but I don’t think so anymore. My mother inlaw was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the second week in February 2014. From her diagnosis to her death was 10 weeks. In those 10 weeks I changed my mind. Too fast, too sudden, we say. But if the day for us to die is appointed as scripture says in Hebrews 9:27, And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, maybe cancer isn’t as bad a word as we think. Let me explain. 

I was at the side of my uncle when he suddenly died of a heart attack. He had no time to see a doctor, he didn’t even have time to say goodbye. With my mother in law we had 10 weeks to say goodbye. 10 weeks to let go instead of in a heartbeat. The doctor gave her 6 months to a year to live. He said there was no treatment that would help, and the best we could do for her was to make her comfortable. Her only response was “How will I stand before my mighty God?”

She came home from the hospital and set about to make her house in order. She told her family what she expected of them and how important it was to live a life that pleased God. Her daughters took turns coming and caring for her. The first few weeks they tried different remedies that seemed to come from everywhere. But she wasn’t interested in alternative medicine. She tried a few remedies to appease them, but her ailing stomach didn’t allow her to drink the various herbal teas or concoctions like organic lemon juice with baking soda that was supposed to be 100X more powerful than Chemo. It was all for naught as her health kept deteriorating rapidly. I was shocked at her decline every time I came to visit. Sure, she put on a brave face but that disappeared quickly when nobody was looking. It was a time of heartache for her children as they struggled to grasp this new reality. Late one night one of her sons, watching as she pulled herself out of her chair and weakly made her way to bed, said “How many times can one’s heart break?” As she got weaker and weaker she pled with her daughters “Please let me go”. But it’s hard to let go of a parent, especially when one had already been let go 10 years prior. One morning she didn’t come out of bed, something happened overnight that made her too weak to to do anything anymore. She asked for her family. My wife and I came the same afternoon. We were shocked at her condition. Her daughters decided right there they would stay till the end. The homecare nurse came out and wanted to take her to palliative care but her girls would have none of that. They became experts at putting on the pain patches, complementing those with pills that they ground up so she could take them. 4 days later she passed away at 5 AM.

Reflecting back on those 10 weeks leading up to the day God had appointed for that grand lady to die, it seems there was an aura around her that was almost sacred. She never complained or accused. It was a time of bonding and sharing for us, of crying and laughing, of hurting and healing, of praying and praising, of hanging on and letting go. We were humbled before God. There are simply times when things go awry for reasons that may never be understood. God’s purpose in your Loved one passing is a mystery and there it must it remain. We will not have the total picture until we meet in eternity. Death has never been easy to except. We only find comfort in knowing that our loved ones are in a much happier place. Also knowing in Christ there are no goodbyes and that it is in death that we have eternal life makes things a bit easier.The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34”18)

She taught us how to live, and she taught us how to die. God rest her soul. Our beloved Mother, Mother-inlaw, Grand-Mother. Friend to all she came in contact with, endured many hardships, she lost her health, but like Job she never lost her faith, all throughout her life She never gave up on God, Christ was close to her with his Angels when her and our spirits were crushed. She knew the truth about God and stood up for it like a good soldier “I have fought the good battle, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing”  

I realize that some cancers are worse than others but I can only talk of what I’ve experienced. I also realize it may take a Christian faith to understand. If you are an Atheist, then I totally agree with you, cancer is a horrible, horrible word. 

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14


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Showing 7 comments

L. Mackert said:reply
On: 1st Feb, 2016 at 04:40

Thank you for sharing this profound insight. Thank you for sharing your testimony of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Thank you for having faith, and courage and hope. God Bless you and your family!

Kelly Eborn said:reply
On: 25th Feb, 2016 at 01:36

I hope all is well with you and your family very touching.

Jim Wohlgemuth said:reply
On: 26th Feb, 2016 at 20:49

What a lovely tribute to your mother-in-law! What an inspiring message to the living. Thank you for this.
Blessings and Peace be with you always,

Don Sndrechek said:reply
On: 21st Mar, 2016 at 06:15

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you very much Paul for sharing.
May God Bless.

I M said:reply
On: 21st Apr, 2016 at 15:16

I really enjoyed your story. This is a story of faith, love, and caring. It is also a story of the gifts we can attain through suffering.
I work in the healthcare field and I often hear of caregivers within communities who are committing to caring for their loved ones. I also know that caregivers would never complain as we honor and love our people and know it is our responsibility to care. My background is Hutterite. My heritage is very sacred to me even though circumstances lead us to step away from the community. I could relate to the love and care your loved one would have experienced during her final days.
I just want to point out that there are wonderful programs available to help guide caregivers who choose to care for their loved ones at home. As I was read I assumed a misconception which I would like to clarify. You mentioned the healthcare team offered to take your loved one into palliative care. You mentioned homecare being involved which is very helpful, but I believe the care of your loved one and experience of the caregivers might have been even better had you accepted support from the palliative care program.
Palliative care is not a physical location but a philosophy of care at the end-of-life. Its goal is much more than comfort in dying; palliative care is about living, through meticulous attention to control of pain and other symptoms, supporting emotional, spiritual and cultural needs and maximizing functional status. Palliative care is an approach to care which focuses on comfort and quality of life for those affected by life-threatening illness. The Palliative care team ensure that care is respectful and supportive of patient dignity, respecting the social and cultural needs of patients and families.
Palliative care offers extended care to wherever the patient is, so in the home, in the hospital or in personal care home’s which will not apply to you. I suspect Hutterite caregivers may not need as much of the professional hands-on support. But feel it could benefit the caregivers greatly if they could allow for education and communicate with the professionals on the palliative care team to guide them to support in caring for somebody who is terminally ill and dyeing. Below you will find a list of supports that can be available to your loved ones and the caregivers during end of life.
• family doctors or nurse practitioners working with local or regional palliative care who are willing to make home visits;
• Even if in-home visits are not offered through the program in your area, program staff may still be available to offer telephone advice. These programs are often run through hospitals;
• home care nurses who can help you to manage symptoms at home by visiting regularly, assessing your health care concerns, and coordinating care with other members of your health care team;
• health care aides with home care programs who may help with bathing, light meal preparation and cleaning;
• Palliative care social workers are also available to you if you want and they use their particular skills and knowledge to help people to deal with the impact of what is happening to them, including loss and bereavement, and to have a good life and a good death. They bring social care expertise and perspective to situations in order to ensure that people get the support they need.
Take care

Louise Boolman said:reply
On: 3rd Dec, 2016 at 01:51

Cancer in my family is a familiar word,my Dad,Mom,and Sister died of it.I have a Sister living who has had it,and in the past two years I have had several cancer surgeries.What my family and cancer has taught me is keep our faith we have a time to live,a time to love,a time for happiness, and a time to die,but until God calls us home we have a purpose and a reason to still be here on this earth.I am not afraid of dying just as my family before me were not afraid.We all know that through our faith and belief that one day we will be joined again in Heaven and there will be no more pain,no more sorrow,no more sadness,no mire being apart we will be in Heaven forever.