Once again, God has given me a peek at the Big Story. You know how something will happen that loosely-sometimes even tightly-ties things together, and you can see that it wasn't coincidental. Someday, we will have complete revelation of how it all fit, but for now, those little "peeks" make life more interesting and gives us something to look forward to.
It also happens that there is a lot of this kind of thing going on in my life right now. It's been several years that I have felt I was in that dry, desert place that so many christians talk about, but this year, things have been happening...and fast!
I want to share with you one of those "peeks" that I had this morning. I offer this in the form of a memorial-a belated one. In fact, one I wasn't going to do intentionally, but now feel that God just wanted me to wait to do it.
A year ago in March, I was preparing a slide show video to say goodbye to my friend, Pam Mason. She died of thymoma-cancer of the thymus gland. I had the priveledge of seeing her go through that 4 year ordeal and saying goodbye to her just a week before she went home. To say her life was an inspiration would be too trivial. I could write page after page about how she affected my life, not to mention the hundreds of others who became involved in her fight against the cancer. She knew, knew, KNEW, where she was going. Her goal was to stay here long enough to impact her children's lives. She was pregnant with her youngest daughter when they found the cancer. Seemingly, even though I was privy enough to her thoughts to know better, the only thing she feared was that Abigail wouldn't remember her. That's one of the areas where people got involved in her fight-we had several scrapbook parties to help get her photos and notes to her children together. Pam had fear, but it came to her in the middle of the night when she was alone. She chose not to let it be the focus of her journey. Instead she wanted people to see complete trust in a God that NEVER fails-even when we are facing death. She had a hope of heaven that was so real to her that, at times, she seemed to rejoice that she would get to see it before the rest of us. I don't know anyone who was touched by her life in even small ways who was not deeply affected by her. Indeed, the words she dictated to be sent out in an e-mail announcing the end-she was going home to hospice care-were:
“Knowing that God has a plan beyond anything that I could ever imagine, I embrace anything He has for me. My prayer is that I will finish well. I love the people that God has placed with in my reach and God has given me a work to do. But as I walk through this difficult time, it is with the ever-present reality of heaven.I have spent my life chasing after God and it thrills me to think He will finally let me catch Him!”
I wasn't Pam's best or closest friend by any means. In fact I didn't even know her before we started scrapbooking together. I knew who she was and that she had cancer, but that was about it. We spent several late nights scrapbooking together in the last 2 years of her life and roomed together at our church women's retreat the last time she went. It was then that I really got to know her. At first I wasn't really allowing myself to get close. I didn't really have an awareness that she wouldn't be around long, but I knew about her illness. She was very open about it, but I think I was more wary of the NEED she represented than the possibility of getting to know her only to have to say goodbye.
Indeed we had talked many times about her illness and the struggles with home life when she didn't feel well. On one of our late nights scrapbooking together, Pam was sitting in the floor of the dining room at church with all her pictures spread out all around her. I was beginning to pack my things up and told her not to feel rushed, it would take me quite a while to pack and I would stay as long as she could handle it. She apologized for taking up so much space and I of course told her it was no problem. The she asked me something. It didn't really sink in at first. It was just matter of fact.
She asked me if I thought cremation was wrong.
She had been working on planning her own funeral and during the arrangements it had come up that cremation was cheaper than burial. She was leaning that direction so it would save some of the life insurance money for her children. She was concerned, however, that her body needed to be intact for when Jesus returns.
My reply was just as matter of fact. I told her that if her body needed to be intact for Jesus to raise her up, that anyone who had ever died in a fire or been dismembered would be in trouble. Besides, our bodies are never intact after being in the ground for a while. I advised her to do what her gut told her-which was to save the money.
Later that night I cried. For the first time, I realized that I had bonded with this woman and I was going to lose her. I cried like a baby. I cry now thinking about it.
I determined to BE her friend from that point on. Not just to talk to her, but to let her into my heart-even though I knew it was going to break it. I don't think I could have helped at that point anyway, I was already hooked.
We spent many more times talking about what she was going through. At times I wasn't sure I could handle it, but she would always ask if I could and I would always answer yes. As a result, I got to feel some of the same things that Pam felt. She read some of her journal entries to me. She shared what God was showing her. I wasn't close enough to her to be much of a part of her time in the hospital, in fact there were times when she asked me to come. and I couldn't, that I regret deeply now.
In spite of all she was going through, she took the time to write thank you notes to me for EVERY little thing I did-which believe me wasn't much. She wanted me to know that she thought I was brave for befriending her when I knew she wasn't going to be around. She told me she admired me for that.
I hadn't gotten to see her those last few months much because she was in the hospital so much. I was afraid I wouldn't get to see her, but afraid to intrude on her family with all the medical intrusions into their lives. After we got the e-mail about hospice, I pretty much gave up getting to see her. The doctors had said 2-6 months, but hospice was saying it would be much less. Pam was already in the death throes. I most certainly did NOT want to intrude on her families last times with her.
But the next day, I got word that a mole I had removed, was melanoma. That word was not lost on me. I knew the implications. I was immediately afraid.
“Knowing that God has a plan beyond anything that I could ever imagine, I embrace anything He has for me." Pam's words were coming back to me.
"My prayer is that I will finish well." I have a choice.
"I love the people that God has placed with in my reach and God has given me a work to do." There are much more important things and I don't want to miss them because of self pity.
"But as I walk through this difficult time, it is with the ever-present reality of heaven.I have spent my life chasing after God and it thrills me to think He will finally let me catch Him!” I have heaven to look forward to! What more could I want?
I immediately began to worship the Lord. He is faithful and just. Not even a sparrow falls from the sky that He does not take notice. My determination became the same as Pam's. I wanted to finish well! I didn't want to grovel in a pity party and make everyone sad. I wanted people to rejoice that I was going to get to see Jesus!
I had to tell Pam. I made an appointment to see her. She asked that it be short, and that was fine. I knew she would have a hard time talking, and I knew I would too-due to sobs. I told her what her words had meant to me. She is gasping for breath and pale as a ghost, but she says, "God is always faithful to bring things about at the right time." I was a puddle. It was all I could do to say goodbye and get out of there. I failed her, but I managed to give her the small confirmation that she had worked ministry here on earth. And she-ever the encourager-left me with a memory of a faithful warrior. Thank you, Pam. Thank You, Jesus!
One week later, Pam entered the gates of heaven. March 19th, 2005
I later had the melanoma removed and the margins came back clear. I was cancer free.
Well, the summer before she died, Pam had asked me to make a slide show of her life, for her funeral and was telling me about the music she wanted played. She introduced me to a pianist named Robert Rogers. Not him personally, but his music. It is absolutely beautiful music. I've been told that she listened to it over and over again in the last 2 weeks because it soothed her so. Behind this beautiful music is a story. I'm not sure how Pam found his story and his music, but she was deeply moved by both. You see, Robert, his wife, and their 4 children were caught in a flash flood. He was the only survivor.
Of all the things in the world that could crush us, that would do it for anyone. I can't even imagine going on after that. Robert not only went on, but gave the credit for the peace and grace he experienced during all of this to the Lord. He allowed God to use the experience, devastating as it was, to minister to others. I was one of those.
Now this is the loose tie to this story. His story and music was so inspiring to me that when I decided to go into photography, I wanted a website with a slide show and HIS music playing in the background. I wanted this so much so, that I looked up his web site, found his contact page and wrote him asking permission to use it LONG before I was ready to do my web-site. Now he got this e-mail from some strange woman he's never met. I figured, I'd be lucky if he replied at all, much less if he actually gave me permission. HE DID! He gave me permission and simply asked that I let him know when I got it up and running. I was shocked
Well, I finally got his music on there. I am still a long way from getting a slide show, but the music was of paramount importance to me. I chose "Time Passing" because I felt it best represented what my photography is all about-capturing time.
So I e-mailed him last night to let him know it was up and this morning I recieved a reply. Now keep in mind, I am a total stranger except for the one e-mail requesting permission to use his music, but he shared something with me...he's getting married!
I am so excited for him! I am so blessed that he shared that information with me-a complete stranger. He certainly didn't have to. Little did he know how much it would bless me to hear that news. Not only does this make me happy for him, but it brings me back to Pam. She would have loved that life goes on. Even though she is not here, she would have loved that everyone else is still living life. She was like that. She would never have wanted any of those she left behind to stop living because of grief over her. She made every possible effort to let us know that she certainly wasn't going to be broken up over her death. She was going to heaven to be with Jesus! There isn't anything better! That was my very reason for not doing a memorial blog for her to begin with, but yet I so wanted to share the story of Pam. This gave me the opportunity to do so, but without it being a sad commentary on the the loss of life.
Thank you Robert, for letting me share in your joy for a moment. Treasure the past, but live now and live on. May your life be full of love and God moments! And thank you for sharing your music with me.
Pam Mason 1966-2005