Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When a Slow Death Scares the Life Right Out of You

I have received messages and calls and posts on my Facebook page about what I think about the beautiful young woman, Brittany, in Oregon who has brain cancer and plans to legally end her life on November 1st.  My own precious daughter, Christina, faced a similar brain tumor challenge and left this world on June 13th, 2013.
Brittany is giving voice to what so many of us think about—how do we want to die? 
Most of us hope we die peacefully in our sleep. 
Christina used to say before each brain surgery, “I’m not afraid of dying during surgery.  Anesthesia to Jesus—it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Other people just hope that their death comes quickly. 
I personally do not know anyone who wants to die slowly and painfully.  Brittany's position does not surprise me.  Most of us feel we would not be able to cope with such a reality.
Jesus himself prayed in the garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me.”  The cup of his crucifixion was not taken from Him and that changes everything for us.

During Christina's 5 1/2 years of living with brain cancer, she had many conversations about how a brain cancer patient dies.  It wasn't a very encouraging picture.  When Christina learned that her brain tumor had returned with a vengeance and her time was limited, we were also told that she had one larger tumor near her brain stem that should cause her to loose consciousness and shut her systems down very quickly.  I haven’t told many people that we had a little “high five” celebratory moment because we thought she was going to have the kind of death that she wanted.  Quick and painless.

It was not to be.  Instead, she had 11 weeks on hospice.  I have recorded much of those 11 weeks in  this blog.  There were some very difficult times. 
She had an evening of discouragement because she thought she was letting people down and causing misery.
More than once, she thought she was losing her mind.  And that was something that terrified her.
A few times, the pain got out of control.
She was sad on the days she realized that she had not fed Isaiah even one time—someone else was caring for him.


If Christina had left us quickly, here are some of the things we would have missed--

Seeing Doug care for her so tenderly.  He kept track of her medicine, her rest, her food and so many, many other things.  He was the very picture of the "till death parts us" kind of love.

The friends and family who came from all over the world to spend a little time with her.

The endless supply of love and food and anything else we needed.

The final “Daddy-daughter” date to her favorite restaurant.

Her remarkable sense of humor and ability to make us laugh.

Christina’s visions.

Hearing the angels sing.

Watching her spirit come alive while her body was fading.

Hearing her pray.

Hearing her tell Jesus, “I surrender.  I surrender everything.” And knowing it was about surrendering herself to be cared for.

Hearing her last, barely audible, “I love you, Mom.”

And we would have missed that amazing moment when Doug whispered to her, “Christina, you have fought so well.  Thank you for fighting.  You can be done now.” Within the minute, she took her last breath.

You see, we cannot know the ways that God will meet us in our deepest need.  We cannot predict the ways He will make us stronger, or make us wiser.  Until we have to walk right into our greatest fear, we have no idea that God has very good reasons to say, “Fear Not”.  Jesus conquered death on the cross and it is by His power that we walk through the impossible things this life holds.

I would never, ever trade away those last 11 weeks.  We saw Jesus.  We saw beauty.  We saw strength and courage. We were walking on Holy Ground. 


  1. Oh how I wish Brittany could know Jesus. It would make all the difference. And, thank you JoDee for once again speaking the truth with such compassion, love, and amazing hope.

    1. Yes, Karen, I believe Jesus makes a huge difference in these journeys we live. Thank you for commenting.

  2. This lady has all that, you don't think she has chosen to live her life to the fullest in the time that she has? The only thing I don't agree with is that she has chosen a date. What if she was still in ok health and not in misery. I'd hope she'd decide to change her stance and stay around for a few more days or weeks until it became painfully aware that her time from then on out would be nothing but pain medication and sleep. Sorry for the loss of your daughter.

    1. Thank you for your comments and compassion. I also hope that Brittany experiences more--beyond the date she has chosen. One never knows the deep joy and deep connection that might be experienced in times of difficulty.

  3. I am sorry for your deep loss. Thank you for letting us learn along side you Jo Dee. It isn't easy to believe God's promise to replace a crown of beauty for ashes. However your openness will most certainly give God opportunity to sew seeds of faith in new places.

    1. Thank you, Betty-Anne. I hope for seeds of faith to be widely scattered by Christina's life. She felt strongly about sharing openly and said often, "If even one person walks more closely with God because of my story, it is worth it." Thank you for your encouragement.

    2. Here are two wonderful but tough realities.
      1. Those who are children of God recognize that the gift of forgiveness, grace, mercy and tender care came at the price of Christ’s own gruesome death for our sins. He exchanged His pure life for our rebellious one. The point being , that He bought us for a price. He purchased us for Himself with Himself. It is the great exchange.
      That means those who belong to Him must embrace the fact that they have given up their rights or agenda to have life their way, and of course, even over the timing and manner of their own death.

      2. That being said, we also must remember that as His child, our life is not our own and was ultimately purchased back from sins deadness into real living for His purposes. It is not just that He owns us, but He assigns us to larger and more amazing things then we can even see or imagine. Things that will last for ever, eternal purposes.
      We are His representatives in those purposes. Lights in a very dark place –ambassadors of hope and freedom for the amount of time He chooses. “In Him we live and move and have our beings”

      In fact an ambassador never gets to choose where they go, what they do or how long they stay. As we live and choose to surrender to His eternal agenda, we finally learn that living here in this broken world was never about ourselves. Christina was chosen by God to live out her life in the manner she did - in a very gracious enduring manner, because she understood that it was never about her. It was about those who journeyed with her through all of it. Christina took the long view as must we. As a child of God, she had the right measurement tools to determine life’s purposes. Christina may have not ever expressed it that way but she knew it to be true and she lived it out – she existed for others for as long as God needed her to.

      She ran the race to the end. She knew people were watching. The way she ran made others believe they could run to the end themselves even through their own pain and loss. That is the world we live in. But some are victors and others just give up. Some choose to live as victorious lights while others think they were here for themselves and their own comforts. The victors know who they are, and what they are here for.. Just like Jesus, she came not to be served but to serve! She was a finisher.

      Brian Pautz

    3. Thanks Brian. I think the other part of Christina that I loved so much is that she considered life with Jesus such an adventure. She really felt that trying to live for herself was dull and pointless. Living with Jesus was fulfilling for her--in ways she had trouble describing. But her joy and delight in life was evident in her smile, her love, and her engagement with all who came in contact with her.

  4. hi jo dee! this is amanda from cox and kings. thank you so much for the book and the flowers.
    your daughter reminds me of blessed chiara luce badano, she also fought against cancer. she is my model. one of her final words were "mom be happy because i am" chiara always said "if you want it jesus i want it too". this words reflected in how your christina lived. i am once again inspired to live my life in light and love.
    when i see the flowers you gave me, i am encouraged to do great work. i am happy to have met you. i hope we meet again.

    1. Amanda, I am so glad to hear from you. I have just returned from India and Kenya and I thought of you so often. I have told many people about your great kindness to me in helping me obtain my visa. I am so thankful you have read Christina's story. I love the statement, "If you want it Jesus, I want it too." I am going to spend some time on that profound thought. It speaks of great faith in God's goodness.

  5. You wrote this so truthfully and full of love. Thank you. I have been pondering Brittany, and her choice to set a date for her life to end.
    My mom died of lung cancer. It was a journey that I will forever be grateful for the rest of my life. Like your daughter my mom was on hospice for many weeks, almost 16. I wouldn't want it to be different. We had so much healing as a family. And every moment is precious. Even if they are absolutely the most painful moments.
    This life is a journey. And it if full of tears and joy. God really does make everything beautiful in his own time.
    Peace be with you.

    1. Thank you for writing, Katrina. Life is a journey--pain, joy, and everything in between. I was thinking today about Christina's last days--some were just plain hard. Some were inspirational. And it was all full of mystery. We had absolutely no clue when the last day would be. It truly was a journey. I felt a bit like a mid-wife. It was hard work and the beautiful result at the end was Christina with Jesus. Thank you for helping me understand the beauty of the pain and the joy.