In my last blog post, "Beauty in the Ashes", I took a look at the upside of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the glimmers of hope we might seek underneath the chaos. Since then, more darkness has ensued. Over the last couple of weeks, what hit home amid the death of George Floyd and remembrance of so many other racial hate crimes, was that the blows to our societal framework and livelihood caused by COVID pale in comparison to these tragic stories of individual suffering. Not that suffering is a new concept, by any means. But it's been so raw, up close and personal, recently.
Some of you may not know, but my dear friend, Nickie, takes center stage on the Care By Air website, in a video of a loved one receiving a care package. We actually recorded that at her house at a time when she felt "good". And, by "good" I mean that she had survived through the night without being rushed to the ER b/c of severe pain and vomiting. Nick fought colon/pancreatic cancer valiantly and without pause for over 3 and a 1/2 years. Among so many unnamed hardships, she endured multiple surgeries to remove abdominal tumors and adhesions, what seemed like endless chemotherapies and treatments - suffering anaphylactic allergic reactions to one or more, and was denied placement in a clinical drug trial due to the size of her tumors not being adequate for participation (despite the fact her belly was riddled with disease).
Over the past few years, a friend group and I had the privilege of getting to know Nickie more intimately. We discovered a bond that was Heaven-sent...and a fierce loyalty to one another. Nickie's illness came about a year after we discovered our friendship written in the stars. Since then, walking alongside her brought us true joy, empathetic pain, and side-splitting laughter. We also came to discover the army of individuals who knew Nickie as family sometime or other during her 48 years. And, I I can scarcely recall an encounter with any of them that didn't leave me feeling refreshed and grateful.
Nickie won her valiant fight against that deadly disease on Tuesday, May 19th, when she joined the heavenly chorus. Actually, having been a top-notch marathoner, perhaps the heavenly marathon team is more appropriate. Nickie had been setup with hospice care on Wednesday, May 6th. Since COVID-19 depleted the stores of IV supplies in hospice services nationwide, oral administration of medicines was necessary. Nickie had a pump of medications delivered around the clock via her chest port (a device placed in the sternum for quick delivery of chemotherapy and other drugs that prevents collapse of veins). But, additional meds were needed to control her pain, nausea, and anxiety. And, having hospice staff administer meds throughout the night wasn't a viable option. So, the task fell to Nickie's husband, who was already and understandably, depleted. Nickie's older brother and his clan, as well as her husband's parents, came out to be with the family and assist with Nickie's care. Our friend group had the opportunity to offer a little bit of reprieve from overnight care in her last week. And, I wouldn't trade those nights for anything. We saw Nickie's body steadily succumb to the effects of the disease process. But, Nickie's. Spirit. Never. Waned. She died with as much zeal as she lived. It was truly miraculous to witness. The morning of her passing brought intense emotions of relief, joy, and peace. She had joined our Father, running - nay - sprinting, through the gates.
While I don't wish what Nickie went through or what anyone who has experienced physical and emotional anguish on anyone, I continue to believe that there is purpose in the pain. Beauty in the Ashes. And, that, while that purpose may elude us now, God is telling us to be vigilant, but patient with ourselves and with each other. That purpose will, one day, shine its light through the darkness.