This post is #187 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
February 26, 2009
I woke with a start ten years ago today. I had slept for several hours without interruption, which had not happened in a long time. It scared me, and I immediately jumped up to check on Hannah. She had slept all night, and was still sleeping. She looked different somehow; better, in fact. She was sleeping in a more naturally relaxed position and her color seemed to be improved. Brad came into the room about that time (he and Bethany were staying in a room right next door) and he also thought she seemed better.
She seemed so much improved, in fact, that he decided to go for a run that morning. Neither of us had been outside the walls of the hospice center much since we'd arrived eight days ago, and a little fresh air would definitely do him some good. I decided I'd better fill out that TEFRA renewal paperwork ... The way things looked this morning, we just might need that insurance coverage in March.
I filled out all sixteen pages of paperwork, wrote the premium check, and prepared it for mailing. I even carried it down the hallway and put it in the outgoing mail tray on the front desk. Upon returning to the room, I peeked at Hannah, who was still sleeping peacefully, and began straightening up a little bit. Brad had returned from his run by this time and was taking a shower.
As I moved around the room, I became aware that the sound of Hannah's breathing had ever so slightly changed. It was beginning to take on a ragged quality. I called Brad in and we sat down beside her. It was apparent that breathing was beginning to require more effort from her. As her breathing became more and more labored, I sent off this quick email ...
Hannah has taken a big step toward Heaven this morning….we believe she will be there by the day’s end. Thank you for all your prayers which are carrying her Home and keeping us in His peace….
“Then I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth, for the old Heaven and the old Earth had disappeared…I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.”…No longer will anything be cursed. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and His servants will worship Him.” Revelation 21:1, 3-4; 22:3.
God is good, all the time!
Jill, Brad, and Bethany
I'm not going to share the details of what happened over the next few hours. That is a sacred time shared only between Hannah, Bethany, Brad and myself. I will say only that her oncologist's prediction that her Homegoing would be a peaceful cessation of breathing was not accurate. The very thing we had dreaded -- what we had worked so hard to prevent with all those platelet infusions -- is what ultimately took her Home. It was ugly and brutal.
When her life on this earth ended, my first emotion was extreme relief mixed with joy. I remember Brad and I both raising our hands in a sort of awkward cheer when she took her final breath. Her suffering was ended at last, and all of Heaven was now spread out before her eyes! How could we not rejoice on her behalf? She was safely Home.
At some point, Brad stepped out of the room and alerted the hospice staff that Hannah had gone Home. The doctor came in and briefly examined her. I remember having the crazy thought that maybe, just maybe, he was going to tell us that she hadn't really died, but no ... he pronounced her dead as of 2:25 p.m. Then we were asked to leave the room so they could clean her up and prepare her body for transport.
We left her room and fell into the arms of our extended family members, who were waiting anxiously in the sun room area. The relieved/rejoicing feeling was seeping away, and reality was beginning to sink in. That sun room was a tangle of tears and hugs and love and prayers, and we drank it in.
At 2:50 p.m. I sent this email ...
Hannah entered Heaven at 2:25 p.m. and is eternally healed....We are praising God!
We will be returning home this evening...please give us some time to be together as a family...
God is still good, all the time!
Jill, Brad, and Bethany
We were called back to Hannah's room when the hospice staff was finished with her. I was surprised to see that her body was tightly wrapped like a mummy. What struck me the most, though, was the look of utter peace on her face. She looked more like herself than she had in months ... the look of sickness we had become so accustomed to was gone. There was no tension and no pain reflected in her face. She was stunningly beautiful ... but she was clearly gone. Her shell was empty, and that made it easier to walk out the door that day.
We arrived home about an hour later to a hot meal sitting on our kitchen counter. The three of us were surprisingly hungry. I remember reaching up into the cabinet and pulling out four plates just like I always had ... and feeling my heart shatter as I sadly put one back.
I don't remember much about that evening. We were so thankful that people respected our desire to have that time just for the three of us. I know we sat in Hannah's room for awhile and reminisced. I also remember that we threw her wig in the trash ... in fact, we buried it at the bottom of the trash can. It seemed to represent everything that had been so painful about the last year's journey. We didn't even want to see it! Hannah hated that wig, and so did we.
As we clung to each other that night, we knew only a few things for sure. We did not like this, but God was still good, He would not abandon us in our grief, Hannah was with Him, and we would see her again one day.
For the time being, that was enough.
(My original intention was to conclude this year-long series of posts with Hannah's homegoing, but I have so much more to share. I hope you'll indulge me with a few more posts in the coming days.)