I have been debating whether or not I should write this post. My hope and prayer is that this post will touch a life and help at least one person.
Some of you already know that on April 23, 5:45 AM our dear and loving mama has passed to be with Jesus. For nine months she has battled a difficult and rare cancer that started in both her kidneys and spread into her lung and brain. Doctors did everything they could, administering numerous chemo treatments; I have lost count. Very often mom had to receive blood transfusions just to keep her going.
Through this long and difficult ordeal, she has never complained or blamed God, doctors or anyone else for her suffering. Peacefully she accepted the verdict of cancer and with the same peace she accepted the verdict that she only has two days to two weeks to live. On Friday, April 22, 2016 I was running around town taking care of some personal things when I received a phone call from my younger brother saying that the doctor wanted to talk to me. I knew something was wrong. Just two days prior mom was admitted to the hospital because she was experiencing severe pain. She has been admitted to the hospital many times before but this time it felt different. On Thursday mom had CT scans and MRI done, so we expected the results on Friday. After I received the call, I rushed to the hospital. I remember driving and it was beautiful, sunny morning, yet it was raining. I remember thinking to my self, “This is heaven crying for us.” When the doctor came, he apologized and told us that there is nothing they can do, the cancer got worse. Our only choice was hospice care. I asked for the time frame, we have siblings living in Idaho, we wanted them to have a chance to come say goodbye. To be honest, I was shocked to hear “Two days to two weeks.” I was hoping for more, a month at least! Mom was calm receiving the news, I think she knew that her time has come. The first thing she said after doctor left was, “Looks like I won’t be able to finish knitting a vest for Nadya (her friend).” She always put others first. I’m so glad that I had few more hours to spend with her, to lay by her side and to have her stroke my hair. She got hungry so I drove to In-N-Out and bought her a burger. By the time I came back the nurses were already hooking up morphine. Mom barely ate, her face was already slightly paralyzed and she had hard time chewing. I had to say my goodbye and promised her that I’ll come back the next day. She only smiled in response.
The tough part was telling everyone in the family what the doctor had said. I have twelve siblings and it wasn’t easy having to have a talk with each one and having to repeat same thing over and over again. The hardest, by far, was having to tell my youngest siblings and trying to prepare them. How do you tell your 11-year-old sister that we only have a limited amount of time left to spend with mom? We began to plan that we will bring mom home and that we will spend the rest of the time with her. We began to organize the schedule to make sure she will have someone with her around the clock. We began to worry where will be put the hospital bed… little did we know that God had His own plan.
For the whole week before mom passed away, I’ve been feeling this anxiety. My heart felt tight and I felt as if we were waiting for something… It wasn’t anxiety of fear, it was more of anticipation, as if something was about to happen. I wasn’t planning on going back to the hospital that Friday night, but now I see that it was God’s plan. I came to the hospital around midnight, three of my younger siblings where still there and one of them was also planning to spend the night. We decided that I will stay and go home in the morning after someone replaces me.
That night was rough. Mom was sick and barely responsive. The nurse and I tried waking her up so we could change her gown. After constantly calling for her to wake up, mom finally opened her eyes, looked at the nurse, smiled shyly and said, “I’m sorry, I’m sleeping” and went back to sleep. Those were the last words she ever spoke. I dozed off after that, but my sleep didn’t last long. Around three in the morning mom’s blood pressure skyrocketed to 204/173. She was going. Scared, I called home and urged dad to hurry. When we were being rushed to ICU I remember thinking, “God if dad walks into mom’s hospital room and sees the disaster we left, he will have a heart attack! Please take care of it Lord!” As we were turning the corner going into the ICU, we ran into dad. God had answered my prayer and when the rest of the siblings were coming into the hospital, He made sure they didn’t run around looking where to go. Somehow, like an intertwined thread, we have run into each other, guiding each other where to go.
Mom was fighting. She fought to breathe until the last of my siblings had a chance to rush to the hospital. She fought until all of us had a chance to tell her goodbye. We wished she could talk to us. Tell us something. Give us her last blessing. But it wasn’t meant to be, she only responded twice, by turning her head to the direction of my youngest brother and sister when they said their goodbyes. And she still fought and held on to life until we did apologize to each other and promised to live in harmony. After that things started changing quickly. We sang her one of her favorite songs, O Prayer. Dad was by mom’s side this whole time, holding her hand. After the song he started asking mom, “Nina do you see heaven? Do you see heaven?” He went on asking her over and over again and I remember thinking to myself, “Dad just let her be! Please just stop asking her!” I was afraid. I was afraid that his question will go unanswered. I was afraid that somehow we will be left disappointed… Suddenly, mom jerked her arm away from dad’s. She opened her blue eyes and stared up at the ceiling. We could tell she is not looking at the ceiling, her eyes were looking into space. She lifted her arm and pointed up. She started turning her head from side to side, trying to tell us something but no words came out. We started praying. I don’t think we have ever prayed as passionately as we prayed then. Silence followed the prayer. We were quiet watching mom breathe slowly and calmly. She was at peace now.
Looking back, I see God’s hand in everything. We can’t blame someone for mom’s passing. Was God unwilling to listen to our prayers? Is He too weak to heal someone from deadly disease? No! He is powerful and He is merciful. It was His will to take mom. When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, He was begging in anguish, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:40). Jesus himself was begging His Father for mercy. We prayed for God to heal mom. Church prayed for God to heal mom. Did God not know that we still need her? He knew that it will be difficult for us without her. He knew that it will be painful for us to loose her. But the prayer of Jesus did not end there. He did not give God an ultimatum. The key to His prayer was in these words, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:40). And that is how our family prayed. That is how our mama prayed. We asked God to heal her, to keep her alive, but we also asked for His will to be done. We told God our desires and our wish, but we completely trusted Him to make the ultimate decision. We might never know why He took mom at age of 56, but we are no one to question His will. We have absolute peace in our hearts, knowing that our mama is in heaven. She is no longer in pain. We know that mom’s prayers will not go unanswered. We know that God will help us through this. We live and die to bring Him glory and I am happy that mom’s life was peaceful and humble. She always taught us to forgive those who offend us and to love everyone no matter what. I’m happy that she touched so many lives, never realizing that she would leave such an impact on lives of so many. I pray that we could become more like her. I know that one day we will be re-united in heaven.
Don’t question God when life gets tough. Completely trust in Him. No matter how painful your situation is, trust that His plans are better than ours. I always come back to these passages when I don’t understand why something is happening, and I hope it will uplift you as well:
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God looked around his garden
And found an empty place.
He then looked down upon the earth,
And saw your tired face.
He put His arms around you
And lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful,
He always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering,
He knew that you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb.
So He closed your weary eyelids
And whispered “Peace be thine.”
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone…
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.
We will miss you mamochka here on earth, but we will see you in heaven!