My paternal grandparents got married in 1952. They are "good Catholics" so they reproduced prolifically. In 1953 their first child was born: my dad. Their children came one right after another, after another, for 8 years. Then they took a five year break and had one more. I mention this to set the stage. Sometimes when I talk about my relatives it gets confusing. So...
Here's the line-up.
1953 - Danny (my dad)
1954 - Marcia
1956 - Lauralee
1957 - David
1958 - Julie
1961 - Scott
1961 - Michael
1966 - Jeff
Recently our clan has been undergoing some hard times though.
The second-born, Marcia, has a son named Ryan who was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few months ago. After a successful surgery, 95% of the tumor has been removed and he is recovering well. For the past 2 months the family held a raffle for "Team Ryan" in order to help with medical expenses. Yesterday was the big drawing and final money count. Amazingly, $25,210.10 was raised!! A wonderful show of support for his cause!
Then, the seventh-born, Michael's, long time partner Mary Jane has been battling cancer for several years. It started as breast cancer in 2007, which she beat, and was in remission for nearly 2 years. But then this August a series of events led to the discovery of a much more aggressive form of cancer in the brain and spinal column. She underwent treatment in Indianapolis (where they live) for almost 2 months, but in stead of effectively killing the cancer, it only spread further. 3 weeks ago, Mary Jane's condition started to rapidly decline. She quickly lost the use of her legs and one of her arms.
Last weekend my Mom and 2 of my aunts went up to visit her in the hospital. My mom had a rare opportunity to spend some time alone with her to share the Gospel and walk her through some Scripture. She was genuinely receptive to what Mom shared with her and promised to think seriously about it. That very night another lady (a friend of our pastor) felt a sense of urgency to go see Mary Jane as soon as possible. So the next morning she went over and shared with her again. This time she was ready. The lady prayed with her and led her to the Lord. We are so very thankful that both of them had the chance to talk with her.
That Monday, one week ago, Mary Jane was accepted as a Hospice patient (because no further treatment could be given) and transported down here to Evansville to spend her final days at my Grandparents' home. We were able to visit with her daily and my Mom tried every time she had the chance to pray with her and read Scripture to her.
Thursday evening my cousin Amy and I played hostess to all the brothers and sisters and their spouses. They all came to Grandma's house for an early Thanksgiving dinner in honor of Mary Jane. Even though she couldn't join them at the table, she scarfed up the yummy food and enjoyed the company in her room. She was awake and alert, although not quite herself due to the heavy medication. We got to visit and tell her all about how pretty the table was set, and what was going on out in the other room.
Friday I went to visit her around lunch time. She was totally awake, making eye contact, and responsive. I brought over some pictures of her cats, which she cherished. She held them to her chest and kept saying how much she loved them.
Elijah also colored her a picture and when I asked what he wanted me to write he said "I love you Mary Jane. And I love dump trucks." So, that's what I wrote. He walks in her room, goes right up to her bed, and says "Hiiiii Mary Jane!" It is so sweet to see the unconditional love of a child.
Last night after a family gathering we went over to see how she was doing. Not well. Her respiration and 02 levels had gone way down, her blood pressure was falling, she had a rattle in her chest, she would not eat or drink, and she was not producing any more urine. Plus she had been virtually unconscious for 2 days. (since just after I saw her on Friday.) We sat with her for a while, talking about Heaven, and filling her in on the day's events. She seemed to hear us because she would move her hand or turn her head slightly in our direction. As we were with her I got a strong sense that she wouldn't be with us much longer.
Mom called at 2:30 this morning. She was over at Grandma's and it didn't look like Mary Jane would make it through the night. She requested I bring over a CD of worship music. So Manny did. I had burned her a CD of all the songs in my collection about Heaven. I really hope that somehow the music was able to minister to her. Maybe, even though, she was unconscious, she was able to hear it on some level. Shortly after that her breathing became very labored and her body began to shut down.
Then this morning at 6:40 am Mary Jane went to be with Jesus. She won her battle with cancer and is now pain-free celebrating in the presence of her Savior! What a glorious thought! And so today we don't mourn for her, we mourn for us. She has finally been made perfect. I cannot even make my mind comprehend that. I am very glad I got to tell her goodbye last night. And I know I'll see her again someday. It is a bitter-sweet day for our family.