Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… (Psalm 23: 4)
Death is a scary thing isn’t it? I mean, we all know we are going to die someday right? Every human dies. Every living thing dies. Some die young and some live to a ripe old age, but death is no respecter of persons. There are no exceptions. When thoughts of death creep into our consciousness, we tend to push them aside as something to deal with later. We tell ourselves that death is in the far off future for us. We don’t need to think about it right now. But that isn’t always the case. This life we live here on earth can be over in an instant. We can be here one day and gone tomorrow. It is something we have no control over.
Our bodies are tough, but also fragile. We can be perfectly healthy and be killed in a car accident instantly. We can think we are healthy and strong only to find out that we have a hidden illness which has not yet manifested symptoms. These are constant reminders to believers and unbelievers alike that this physical life is temporary. It is only a baby step away from eternity.
I think it safe to say that all of us have had the false misconception at times that tragic accidents which cause fatal injuries, and/or illnesses that cause death, happen to others not to us or to our family. As we travel through life we eventually learn that death touches every family sooner or later.
It has touched my own family in recent months. My husband passed away this past February after being ill for over 3 years. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness in October of 2012. At that time the doctors told us he had months, but God had a different plan. He lived for 3 ½ years after his diagnosis. During that time we always felt a shadow above our heads. It followed us everywhere.
At first I cried every day. But at some point I realized that I couldn’t live life that way. It wasn’t healthy for me or for the rest of the family and especially for my husband. So instead of crying I made up my mind to go on with life, keep it as normal as possible and enjoy our time together. I continued to work, and on my off days we did normal, and often fun things together as long as he was able. The last year of his life wasn’t so much fun, especially for him, but we made the best of it. We lived life.
My husband passed away February 2, 2016. As difficult as it was and still is, it was a relief that his suffering was over. In Jesus we have a living hope for eternity. He promises; I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11: 25, 26) I am sure that Bob is now experiencing the joys of heaven. I miss him terribly, but am confident that I will see him again when the Lord calls me home.
After his death my life settled back into a “new” normal…until April of 2016. God wasn’t done with us yet. The evening of April 9, 2016, I received a text from my 40-year-old son informing me that he was in the ER. It read; “I am in the ER, but don’t worry mom, I am okay.” That was it – that’s all it said. I immediately dialed his number. He answered and informed me that he had a severe headache and that they were giving him what is known as an IV cocktail for migraines, then he would hopefully be sent home. “ok”, I said; “just keep me posted”.
I hung up the phone and thought to myself; “That’s strange. He has never had a migraine before that I can remember.” I set that thought aside however and decided it best to just wait and see. I talked to him several times throughout the following week and he seemed to be doing somewhat better, but still had a headache. On Friday, although his head still hurt, he felt he should try going back to work.
That evening I called to see how his day had gone. He said; “My head is still hurting really bad and every time I move I get sick. I must have been sick at least six times at work today.” I replied; “Robert, something is seriously wrong. You need to go back and get checked out again. He replied; “I will if I’m not better tomorrow. The kids will be here soon for the weekend.” He hung up and when I tried to call him back, I got no answer. I texted Sean and informed him that his dad was feeling really bad and waiting for them to arrive. He texted back that he was waiting for his sisters to get their things together. They would be on their way soon.
When I called again later Sean and the kids were with him. His Dr. had prescribed him something for the upset stomach, so at least the vomiting had stopped. My granddaughter Toree said to me; “don’t worry grandma. We are taking good care of dad. He isn’t throwing up anymore.” Bless her heart…I love her for being so brave.
They made it through Saturday, but on Sunday as soon as I got home from church. I texted Sean to find out how things were going. He replied; “We are in the ER again grandma. They are doing a CT scan of his head to see what is going on.” The next text read; “He has a mass.” I immediately called and asked; “do I need to come?” The answer of course was “yes”.
Milwaukee is a 6½ hour drive from Grand Blanc, MI and I had never done it alone before, but I had a good car. I called it my “smart” car because it had turn by turn navigation through OnStar. What a blessing! I packed my clothes, made arrangements for family members to care for my menagerie of pets and by 3:00 pm I was on the road.
I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 pm (10:45 Michigan time). At that time, he was finally resting comfortably in NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit). He had been given medication to relieve his pain and steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain.
We were told the next day that he would need surgery. He had 2 masses in his brain, both on the right side. One was on his right temporal lobe and was displacing his brain, which was what had been causing the excruciating pain. It would have to be removed. The other mass was deeper and a little more to the left, but still in the right lobe. They would not remove the second mass. Because of its location they would not touch it unless they absolutely had to, in order to prevent further injury to the brain.
In spite of the seriousness of it, we were told he was fortunate he hadn’t had a seizure – and also that it was a good thing the masses were on the right side of his brain. Had they been on his left side it would have been much more debilitating. His motor skills would have been affected. He may not have been able to walk or even stand.
In all of this, I was thinking to myself; “This can’t be real!” I just lost my husband, now my son too?” I asked the Dr.; “Is this cancer for sure? Could it possibly be benign tumors?” He said; “This is cancer. We just don’t know for sure what kind until the biopsy comes back.
The cancer turned out to be Glioblastoma stage 4. It is the worst kind of brain cancer. It is fast growing, (which the Dr. said is good, in the sense that it will respond well to treatment), but it is terminal. We were told; it is not a matter of “if” but “when” it will return. Statistics give him 14 months to 5 years. It seems the “shadow” has returned.
We are encouraged because Robert has done very well since his surgery. He just finished his first round of treatment (Radiation and Chemo) on Friday July 1, 2016. He has a month off now to rest and regain his strength and then he will go on a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for a year. He hopes to be able to go back to work during that time.
He has five good reasons to live. They are Sean (age 17), Kevin (age 15), Bailey and Caitlyn (twins age 13), and Toree (age 11). He loves them so much and they need their dad. At the same time, we must remember that God knows what is best and we must trust Him.
So the Pocza family is living in the “shadow” once again. But we all live in that shadow from the moment we are born and before. We hope to live a long life here on earth, but no matter how long we live, physical death will always be the end result. God did not create us to die, but because of sin it is certain.
Death is not something we should dwell on and be worried about every day. God gives life and it is a blessing. He wants us to serve Him joyfully each day and enjoy our life. But He also wants us to be prepared at all times for the day He will call us home to eternal life. Being prepared means loving Jesus and living to glorify Him. He died in our place and paid our debt to God for our sins. Through faith we are covered in robes of righteousness and are holy in God’s eyes and fit for heaven.
Without faith in Jesus, our physical death means we will live eternally separated from God. That is a big deal because eternity is forever. Here on earth believers and unbelievers alike receive blessings from God. Being completely separated from God means there will be no light, laughter and love. Without His presence there will only be darkness, pain and sadness for eternity.
God has perfect timing and we trust His timing knowing He loves His children with an unconditional and perfect love. He will always do what is best for us. Knowing that however, shouldn’t keep us from asking, even begging Him for a miracle. I pray each day, for God to heal Roberts brain and extend his life. But at the same time Robert, through faith in Jesus is sure of where he is going. He said to me one day shortly after his diagnosis; “Mom, I am not afraid to die”. My mother’s heart however does not want to let him go. May the LORD’S will be done.
Jesus promises to never leave us (And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and He promises to carry our burdens for us. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We must let go of the things in life which are out of our control and trust Him.
Robert feels it an honor to be disciplined by the Lord in this way. My son do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son (Hebrews 12:6). He is using his illness to reach out to those who don’t know the Lord and is setting an example of faith and trust in his God. His strong faith and love for the Lord are his strength.
So my new normal now is living in Oak Creek, WI with my son. I am happy to be here and we are enjoying this time together. I am enjoying seeing and spending time, with my 5 grandchildren who have always lived so far from me. I am learning to find my way around Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. I have connected with an old friend from my high school and college days. I am spending time with my dear cousin and her husband who have been wonderful support for not only myself, but for Robert also. My sister, who was alone in California has also come to live nearby which is a true blessing.
I was lonely in Michigan. I missed my husband so much and life was just not the same. I still miss him, but I have other things to think about and other people who need me. Although I wish I would have come here under happier circumstances, I feel blessed to be here. I would have never made the decision to come here on my own, but this is where God wants me and He knew how to get me here. He just keeps me moving and I am willing to go wherever He sends me. I don’t know what the future holds but God does, so there is no reason for me to worry about it. The shadow still follows us closely, but we are ignoring it and enjoying this time God has given us. When/if tears and sadness come, the Lord will be right there by our side.
…for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me…surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:4, 6)