We had been praying and believing God for healing these four years, and saw improvements in her body in the past few months.
She was active and strong, and it was not until about five days before her death that she suddenly grew weaker, and retreated to her bed, not able to get up again.
My (Leah) Mom is my closest friend, and I was used to talking to her and emailing her every day. About five days before she left us, my family answered the phone when I called, and said that Mama was entering a new phase of weakness, something new that we had not seen before. We were still praying for healing, but I could tell that they were also preparing themselves for the possibility of God planning something else.
As I layed in my bed in the Philippines, my family took the computer to my mom's bed, and she and I talked face to face, through a computer screen for the last time. A day later she was unresponsive, and yet I called every few hours and the phone was put up to her ear. I told her of my fierce love for her, which she already knew, and read promises from God's word over her.
"I love you more than life, my bestie, my amazing, beautiful Mom. Oh I love you. You know that, right? I will call you in a few hours." I wept in her ear. "Yes!" she said with fervor. It was her last word.
My husband and I sat on our bed on the other side of the world from her, and our spirits travailed. We prayed without ceasing... clinging to Jesus, throwing ourselves on Him, trusting in His heart, His healing hand. We prayed with faith that could move mountains, asking Him to move this mountain, to push back the cloud of death that was hovering over her, and do what looked impossible.
We believed Him for healing, for new incredible life to overwhelm her body, for disease to be annihilated.
We asked that her life be spared, if not for us, for this beautiful baby kicking inside of me, that needs to be held and loved, and known by her Mimi.
And then we prayed, "In all of this, not our will but yours be done."
We cried and prayed, for five days we slept in ten minute increments, our spirits feeling a deep changing about to take place.
My family and friends were encouraging us not to board a plane, fears abounding at what would happen to me or our baby after more than three months of bed-rest, four-and-a-half months of IVs, and frequent contractions. We prayed and asked God to speak clearly, to show us what to do and we would do it. If God spoke that we were to stay in the Philippines, we would do it, no matter how hard that would be.
I finally looked at my husband and asked what we should do... we did not want to make any decisions based on fear. We would obey what God spoke.
France held my hand and looked into my tear-streaked face, "I am taking you there." He said with finality. "It is what God is speaking."
And so we left four hours later, boarded the boat, then bus, then cab, and finally arrived in Manila seven hours later, where we went straight to the hospital to see the obstetrician for the first time in three-and-a-half months. As we looked at our beautiful baby squirming and swimming and kicking on the ultrasound screen, tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Life. Surrounded by the shadow of death, here was life, inside my own body, delighting and comforting me in ways I could not imagine.
"It's a girl," the doctor stated, and in that moment, I felt clearly in my spirit and we both agreed that we were to name her Julia, in honor and celebration of her Mimi.
We called home a few moments later, and as my mama lay in a coma, her hand in my Dad's, I spoke into her ear that we were having a little girl, due the day after her birthday, and were going to name her "Julia Solei" which means "To shine like the sun," after her Mimi who does indeed shine like the sun, reflecting her Jesus in all that she does. We cried and told her that this little girl would grow knowing her Mimi loves her, molded by her love and heart. France and I each had an ear to the phone, our tears mixing together, our hearts breaking in new and foreign ways.
My mom squeezed dad's hand as she heard our words, and we told her again how much we love her, how she is the best in all of us, she is our heart.
Not quite two hours later, my dad called as we were preparing to leave the hostel for our flight, and told me with a breaking voice that Mama had just entered glory in Jesus' arms.
My siblings and Dad were gathered around her, rubbing her feet, holding her hand, reading Jesus' promises over her, and as she breathed her last breath they held her and each other, releasing her to Jesus' arms, to a healing that may not have been as we hoped, but was far more complete.
I wept brokenly in my husband's arms, both of our hearts in pieces, feeling that maybe they would never be whole again. We sat in the dining room of the hostel, people surrounding us, staring, and we collapsed under the grief of losing a massive part of both our hearts. I felt that I could not let her go...we were not done loving each other, we were not done delighting in each other.... there was not enough time.
I prayed in that moment, between sobs, surrendering to a will that was higher and greater than my own. Speaking out, almost to convince myself, that I still trust in the perfection of my God's heart. I still trust that He is good. I still trust all that I am to Him, throwing myself into His hand.
We boarded the plane a few hours later, my husband pushing me in a wheelchair, I.V. bag in hand, our eyes blood-shot, our hearts heavy, but our God preparing the way ahead of us.
Thirty-some hours later we arrived in Pennsylvania, and were folded into the arms of my family, where we wept, and laughed, and wept some more, in a pile of messiness and beauty.
A week and a half after we arrived, my beautiful husband left again for the Philippines, to run our ministry, and carry on our responsibilities while I support and love him from the other side of the world. We know that with the risks and problems we have had during this pregnancy, I must stay here until after our little girl is born, and we are praying daily that France will make it back to be with us for her birth.
So here I am, living in a house that used to feel like home, with my Dad, and my little growing girl inside of me. My Dad and I are walking through each day, learning how to live with a piece of our hearts gone, learning what it means to grieve, with all the raw messiness necessary to heal well. We are feeling the bittersweetness of death giving way to life as Julia prepares to make her way into this world that Mom just left.
I see and feel my Mama everywhere I look... her apron hanging on the hook by the stove, still smelling like whatever she last baked, her head-band laying where she took it off before bed, her lemon face-cream sitting on the sink. I feel her in this fiesty little kicker inside of me, who has her Mimi engrained in her DNA, and I have a feeling, has Mimi's fire in her eyes.
I have wrestled with God, through the raw and awful, the real and messy emotions of healing. I have laid on the ground and wailed, releasing the torrent of this pain into His hands. I have struggled through the crisis of having trusted Him implicitly, the way a small child leaps into her Father's arms, never doubting that He will catch her, never once thinking that maybe He will drop her, and then feeling a little maybe He has.
My relationship with God has never been a duty, never been a religious experience -- It has been a romance, a faith jump, a relationship built on the fact that I believe God is who He says He is, and that He does all that He says He will do. I have flung myself completely onto Him, with no net, knowing that He if He did not catch me, I would fall flat on my face. My hope is not in anything else. I have looked like a fool to many for trusting Him to heal when it looked impossible, for believing He will provide when nothing is left, and I will continue to do it again...but with this my heart was left hurting, knowing that He could heal, with one touch, one word, and He did not.
After two weeks of this pain, I sat down and asked Him... "God show me your heart. I am hurting, I feel like you did not hear us, I feel like you let us fall, I FEEL alot of things, and am choosing to trust that you are still good, still faithful, still holding us and hearing us."
God spoke to me in that moment, this one thing, "You Will See."
Each day, as I continue to praise what I do not see or feel, and walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He continues to whisper in my ear, "You Will See." And I will. Maybe next month or next year, or not until this life eclipses into the next -- but I will see. I will see the goodness of His heart, and how this was the best possible plan for my mama... I will see that it was perfect, and we were becoming more perfect through it. I will see so clearly. And I am OK with that. In these moments I am feeling that hand holding me up, and knowing that it did not slip, or lose its grip or forget to hold us up, and more importantly, it did not ever let go of my mom. It's been there all along. And I trust it.
I am realizing in deeper ways these days that there is nothing natural or beautiful about death...We should never get used to it. It is awful, ugly, unnatural, and belongs in Hell.
We were created to live forever, without interruption, without separation. We were made for relationship that goes on and on and on. Sin entered and stole that from us, but eternity is still etched and carved into the deep fibers of our souls, and that has never left.
Jesus came and made a way for us to once again live forever in relationship, but first is this separation of death, this interruption of forever, that grates and jars, and goes against what our souls were made for. I am feeling this acutely, and longing for eternity in new and agonizing ways.
As I picture my mama dancing and singing her lungs out with Jesus, I can't wish her back. Sometimes I try, and realize how selfish that really is, and how there's not a chance she would trade this real life she has now for this half-life we are stuck in.
I am still messy, in the process of healing, and may be for a long time, but I am being held in the hand of Jesus, who is taking my messiness and loving me to a new level of growth with Him. That is what this is about.
I am praising God each new morning for never changing, even when the storm is heavy, and the night is dark. He is still here.. He is still good.