Saturday, January 31, 2009

Until The Last Moment

“My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow me” - John 10:27

I’ve been sitting in front of the dwindling fire in the fireplace for the past hour. I stare at it and look over at the empty couch. Johnny has been sleeping on and off all day….mostly on. He finally gave up and went upstairs to bed. I don’t know how much longer he will be able to make it up the steps. He takes a few steps at a time and must rest before he continues up. We have 16 stairs. When he gets to the top he is exhausted.

I’ve tried to get him to start sleeping downstairs – but he is such a fighter. He won’t give up until he just can’t do it anymore – till he has fought with all his might. He has always been a good card player. He knows when to “hold em” and when to “fold em.” He also knows when to walk away. This week he walked away from the chemo and told the doctor – “no more.”

He weighed in about 145lbs and has never recovered from the devastating effects of the last chemo. He hasn’t eaten more than a handful daily in weeks. He threw up the night before the scheduled chemo. He walked out of the bathroom and told me “that’s it – let’s talk about hospice.”

I’ve been trying to broach the subject for weeks. But he would hold up his hand and forbid me to mention it, “don’t take away my hope” he would say. I couldn’t make him understand all the positive benefits of the improvements in his quality of life. Then “a God thing” happened when his friend Chuck came to visit one day.

In the course of a conversation they had, Chuck started relating his own experiences with hospice when his dad was sick. Something about hearing it from another man made Johnny listen. That began the process of Johnny’s mind being receptive to getting help in a different way.

And so this week Hospice came to the house and we began the process of setting up services here at home. They are wonderful. He is now getting a whole new level of medical attention that really gives us the security of someone “having our back” on a 24/7 basis. We have an assigned nurse. They handle all the medications from here on. He has instant access to doctors on call. New meds arrived on our doorstep within an hour of his assessment.

A shower chair arrived the next day. An aide is on call when he needs assistance of any kind doing daily activities. Counselors and pastors are available. Folks, this is medical care as it should be. Compassion combined with the philosophy that the patient’s best interest is their only interest.

There has been a flurry of activity going on the last few days that has exhausted Johnny. I think he has found a new peace in the process of letting go and giving up the chemo fight. He has been sleeping constantly as if finally allowing himself to relax. He is on a new medication regimen targeting his nausea first. But he still hardly eats.

I suddenly realize that this week has exhausted me also. But it is more than physical. I know my spirit took flight this week to help him fly. I feel as if spiritually, I have been with him on his journey trying to help him over this big hurdle. I’ve been holding his hand when I need to spiritually, and carrying him on my shoulders when he can’t go further. These are the moments our spirits came together as one.

I have not been able to write this week. My mind has been blank because my spirit was not present – it was with Johnny walking through the valley….trying to follow our Shepherd in a place we have never been. I have had to lead Johnny for the first time.

I’ve been holding our wedding picture clutched to my heart as I’ve stared at the fire tonight. It’s my favorite wedding picture. We had just turned around and were walking hand and hand towards our unknown future for the first time as man and wife. Johnny was leading the way.

Tonight, I felt so alone. He didn’t even finish watching the fire die out like he always does. Even when he was still there it’s like he wasn’t there. The man that now lays on the couch is not the same Johnny I have known for 33 years. He is a fragile shell of the old Johnny, whose zest for living and laughing and loving life to the fullest, always made our world an adventure.

There are many seasons that love travels through. I was not expecting this one for a few more decades. But here it is. It’s “baptism by fire.” Walking through this valley is indescribable. It really is like a fog you can’t see through. All we can do is listen for “the shepherd’s voice” calling out to us and guiding us through to the other side of the valley towards the light.

And so we walk – one day at a time – step by step – walking through fear, walking through uncertainty, walking through pain – and clinging to the peace that surpasses all understanding. God tells us “I know my sheep and am known by My own. We follow in faith because we know that all is well….no matter the circumstances….because we are loved, we are watched over….and we are together…….now and forever….until the last moment.

Beautiful Blessings,



Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what your mind goes through, even for just an hour. I love you so much, and I pray for peace for you. I will pray for your loneliness, but please know you are always in my mind and heart. I love you so very much, you have been such an inspiring person through this "valley" you and Johnny are traveling.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Rene,
As I read your blog I couldn't help but cry. My heart goes out to you and your family. I feel ashamed because I have sat here and felt sorry for myself because Ralph had to go to Iraq.
Rene, I have so much in my heart I want to say to you but I just can't get the words out right.
Let me share something positive with you. The Lord spoke to my Mom this week. She called me and had to share what He told her. I can't remember exactly how He worded it but it was something like this.
"I have seen the evil of this world. I am coming to get my children and I'm coming soon. Guard your heart, clear your head and listen for the trumpet for I am coming soon to get my children." Rene my Mom doesn't just make these things up. As she told me I began to get so excited. All the earthly things I have been worrying about don't seem important anymore. I want to reach out and try to get as many as I can to turn there hearts over to the Lord.
I emailed Ralph and told him. He said when he read it the first time, he was like okay. Later he was drawn to read it again. The second time he read it his spirit was shaken. He too got excited. I'm not sure if I will see Ralph again here on earth but I KNOW if I don't I WILL see him again in heaven. Oh what a wonderful day it will be when we all get to heaven. So, as hard as it may be remember Johnny may be leaving a little ahead of us but we won't be long here on this earth once his Journey here on earth is over. Jesus IS coming back soon. Hold on to that. Those of us that are still here must work as hard as we can to reach lost souls. I hate to think that anyone will be left behind. it's a sad thing to know that not all will accept Jesua.
I will close on that note. I will be sending up extra prayers for all of you.'
In Christ Love,
Shari Collins

joe said...


I heard an interview with your daughter on a photography podcast just yesterday, and was moved by her testimony at the end of it. I am now perusing her various webites and came across this one. I will be praying your husband's last days are met with a peace that only faith in Christ can give. Our great Lord knows what is best for us even when it hurts beyond words. I shall be praying for you and Scarlett also at this time. I know how hard it can be even though we know Johnny will be ushered into the presence of our Lord soon and will be pain free, those of us left her on earth must bear the earthly sorrow of separation from our loved ones when that happens. May the Lord bless you in these times of great trial


cathy said...

You have such an incredible way of writing. What a great gift to the world, for those who might be going through similar things. What a gift to the world.

I am so sorry that you are losing your life partner. My husband's Dad died in hospice June 27th, 2008. And I know that hospice was vital to his well being until the end. I remember that relief of hospice help when my Mom in Law, and us couldn't help him as best as we could anymore. We were so happy that he could find 'relief!' and keep him comfortable until that last moment as well. So powerful.

I pray the same for your husband. And I pray for strength for you and your daughter.


Laura Lu said...

oh rene...praying for your heavy heart, for johnny's comfort, and peace for Scarlett.

Rene Williams said...

Thanks to all of you who share our journey through reading this blog. I can feel your hearts lifting us up. we appreciate your comments and encouragement.

Our hope is that you will find something within our journey that brings you closer to God in your own life. We are all connected....when God is in the midst, the circle is unbroken.

{annie_loo} @ The Farrar Four said...

Thinking of you Mrs. Rene. I know this must be such a hard time but your words are a beautiful description of love. May you have peace and rest in the coming days. I pray for you, Johnny & Scarlett daily. Bless you all.

Much love, Annie

Anonymous said...

As I wrote to Scarlett on her blog MUCH LOVE AND PRAYERS... from one of her "blog stalking" fans.

Anonymous said...

May God continue to be with you and help guide you. I pray He holds you and comforts you. I follow Scarlett's blog regularly and I'm heartbroken over the pain your family is going through, but relieved to know that Johnny is going to an AWESOME place and that Heaven is good.

We're continuing to pray for Johnny, you and Scarlett.


Jeremy D. Maurer