For years she had battled belly pain. Doctors believed it was spastic colon, but there were no definitive answers until January 2010, when we learned that Sue had carcinoid cancer and that her condition was terminal.
One night while writhing in pain on the sofa, she begged Daddy to let her die at home. He promised he would take care of her, in spite of the fact that he'd suffered two heart attacks and undergone stent surgery just a few months before and was still pretty weak himself.
She ended up in the hospital for several weeks and in the end it was decided that nothing more could be done for her, so she was sent to a nearby hospice center. We were told her health was so fragile that she most likely would not survive the 90 minute trip home. Sue was not happy about the arrangement.
But the hospice center proved to be quite cheery and upbeat, with a window and a bird feeder, a fire place and other homey amenities. From the moment we arrived, Sue seemed to relax a bit and forget her anger and just enjoy the unseasonably warm March weather. It was so nice outside that I was able to serve her and Daddy an al fresco breakfast one morning.
She was there a week and her health actually improved enough that it was suggested that she be moved to the hospice facility closer to home. Well, if she could make that drive, why couldn't we take her home? I questioned. The staff quickly trained me in several procedures, including how to drain the shunt in her abdomen where fluid would accumulate and had to be dealt with nightly.
The remainder of this amazing story is best summed up in the tribute I wrote for her that was read at her funeral six weeks later:
As we stood in the living room watching the ambulance pull into the driveway that Friday afternoon of March 12, there was a sense of anticipation in the air. Though we were certain this was the Lord’s will, none of us knew what to expect. We thought you were coming home to die, however you quickly showed us that you had come home to live.
Not content to pine away there in that hospital bed, you were determined from the very beginning that you were going to do as much for yourself as possible. By the end of the first week, you were getting out of bed with minimal help, going to the bathroom alone and you even bathed without any assistance. You seemed to gain strength with each passing day and we were all amazed by your steady progress. You firmly believed that you would be healed and were so determined that you were going back to work, you had many of us wondering about the possibility.
Larry built a ramp on the front porch and wide steps out the back door. Sandy planted flowers and several family members and friends went in together to buy you an early birthday present; a glider to enjoy on the back porch. You would sit for hours in your peaceful sanctuary, bird-watching and enjoying the spring-time sights and nature sounds and talking with God.
You began to cook simple meals and insisted on keeping up with the housework yourself. You swept and mopped those beautiful wood floors from your wheelchair at first, then later with the help of the walker.
Your family gathered at your house on Easter Sunday and later that evening your face seemed to radiate with joy as you told me about the day. Your eyes sparkled when I commented on how pretty you looked.
You decided it was time to put away your Santa collection and were so proud of that accomplishment. Out came the deer and elk figurines and the bears you had collected through the years.
As the Wisteria vine came into full bloom, you made the comment that it had never before looked so beautiful. You told me how you had planted the Wisteria even before the basement had been started, and fondly recalled memories of you and Dad working together in building your home and the fireplace you were so proud of.
Stephanie and Emily took turns spending nights with you and Emily will always remember those late-night talks after the lights had been turned out. Stephanie enjoyed sitting at the table with you, cutting and sewing the denim strips that would later be woven into rugs in your basement. You taught her a more efficient way of joining the strips together and you were clearly in your element. You've always enjoyed working with your hands, whether you were decorating a cake, or making a cross-stitch, or knitting a blanket or sweater to give as a gift. Many people have been blessed by your beautiful creations.
As the cancer raged on, your health continued to decline. You nervously stepped on the scales each morning and could no longer deny what was happening in your body. Attending Zach's funeral seemed to bring you a sense of peace.
It was only six weeks. Six short weeks at home. But during those weeks you lived life to the fullest and learned how to fully trust the One in Whom you had placed your faith. You viewed each day as a gift and taught the rest of us not to take our time here for granted.
In the end, your death was much like you had lived your life; simple and quiet, without any fanfare. The gentle smile on your face reassured us that you were finally at rest and that you had indeed received your healing.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? ...Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)
|In loving memory of Sue George|