I don’t remember exactly when I first stumbled on her Instagram account. A month or two ago, maybe a little more. You know how it goes: After clicking on a friend’s post, you follow the tags and links until somehow you land on the profile of a random stranger you’ve never met or even heard of. And you end up spending half a day reading all the details of her personal life like some kind of weird internet stalker.
[Please tell me I’m not the only one.]
All stalker tendencies aside, this time I connected with the woman on the other side of my phone screen not because of her pictures, fashion sense, or career adventures. But because of her hard story:
At this time, my body is too weak, too burdened, too depleted, and my veins are too overworked to continue on with chemo. Hospice will help me be as comfortable as possible, and at home with friends + family, during this time. Which is everything …
The pain hits every night. The meds help me sleep through it. And your love carries + sustains us, as our Savior, in His perfect timing, leads me home.
Chemo. Hospice. Home. The words landed with painful familiarity. It wasn’t all that long ago that I well knew the first word, and wondered if I would soon be acquainted with the others. I’d tried to imagine them, wondered how I would handle their reality should they become my own. With gratitude, I now celebrate the truth that I can not yet own them. Even so, it’s a sober celebration, knowing my day is coming, one way or the other.
Perhaps this is why I felt such a connection with a stranger. After spending so many years facing death’s ultimatum, I now wanted to watch how this woman, so much like me, would wrangle with it.
And so I did, from the moment I first stumbled on her life in full Instagram color until two weeks ago.
When she went Home.
You can learn a lot by watching someone say goodbye. Granted, social-media-close isn’t the same as face-to-face-close. I’ve held space both ways, and they land on the heart a bit differently. Social media allows you to click through, move on to something more comfortable, less likely to keep you awake in the dark, should the watching grow gut-wrenching.
But I didn’t want to move on. I wanted to keep vigil, even if from a distance. I wanted to enter into the pain with her, with her husband and children, with her friends who ached at the thought of living without her. And I wanted to honor her battle with life and death—and honor her steadfast faith through it all—with my silent watching.
Why? Because facing death teaches us how to live. And facing death teaches us how to die, when our own goodbye comes.
Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter, that day when Roman soldiers found a garden tomb empty. We’ll focus on the Resurrection, celebrating the Good News that Jesus overcame death so we could live. Rightfully so. We’ll exhale with relief that in the moment of our deepest dark, Light has come.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
But don’t scroll through the days leading up to Sunday too quickly. Don’t move so fast past the ache to get to the joy.
Maundy Thursday Jesus washed his disciples feet, prayed alone in Gethsemane’s garden, and held out his wrists to His enemies when his close friend turned Him in with a kiss. And Good Friday? It wasn’t good at all. After an unjust trial and a series of horrific tortures few of us could endure, Jesus died on a cross, abused, humiliated and alone, abandoned even by the Father he loved. Then Saturday, the darkest day of all. The day between death and life, when the full impact of Jesus’ crucifixion fell on those who loved Him most, who’d given everything to follow Him. Saturday was a day without Hope, when the Light was swallowed by a complete and devastating dark.
Hold vigil on those days, my friend. Allow yourself to feel the depth of dark, the weight of death, the fear of that moment when all hope is gone. Sit there, in all the discomfort, knowing that a day is coming when you’ll need to say goodbye, too.
Why? Because facing death—Jesus’ death and yours—teaches us about life.
Then, when Sunday morning comes—and it will come!— walk back to the grave one more time. While the world wakes up to Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, look through your tears at the tomb.
Do you see it?
It’s empty! EMPTY!
Hope isn’t dead at all. In fact, He is alive!
And that means, we can hold space with life and death, even with strangers on Instagram. Because even when you and I face death, ultimately we get LIFE.
I too have heard the whisper of Jesus to follow Him closely through this week of pain and betrayal.
Suffering and abandonment. And to fellowship with Him in His suffering and to invite Him to reveal Himself to me in mine.
Yo not run from my pain and suffering but to intentionally move towards it, as He did this week.
And the healing I am finding in this place of facing the dark is difficult but oh so beautiful.
Thank you for sharing this post Michele!!
Wow. This was not only beautiful insight but has given me something to think about. I’ll admit in the midst of young family life, I have not taken the time to think about Saturday nearly as much as Sunday. But I want to now, and I will. I’m excited to share this with my children, and help them even (baby steps & age appropriateness) to better understand the gravity, and darkness of that day, only then can we all better praise our Jesus who is surely alive. Thank you Michele.
Michele, you have the “Barnabus” gift. You are one of the most encouraging, uplifting people I know.
“But I didn’t want to move on. I wanted to keep vigil, even if from a distance. I wanted to enter into the pain with her,..”
this echoes my thoughts too. I was moved to tears reading your blog and her instagram. it never matters if we know each other or not, we are so intricately connected and our stories are inexplicably woven together.
Beautiful, so beautiful.
I think I know who this woman was and I did the same thing with her. Her story brought me to tears many times. I am so thankful we have Easter Sunday!! Blessings on your day!
I love you, stalker tendencies & all! 🙂 You can rent her story, or someone similar, if I’m mistaken, on Amazon Prime. The craziest part is that I didn’t cry. I’m still processing that, since I typically have leaky eyes.
This week just shouts victory to me, even louder than usual. It’s the ultimate “BOOYAH!!” in Satan’s face. He messes with me every. single. day., but in Jesus Christ WE are conquerers. I can’t say I often feel like a conquerer, even after 11 years of fighting this beast, but I am. Knowing the Jesus beat death, the ultimate foe, breathes life into my soul.
Yes, Holy Week is one of my favorite times within the church year … the invitation to sit before God, holding our hearts open to His will, His timescale for our lives and the lives of those we love …
Michelle, thank you for this. As I write I’m sitting at my mum’s kitchen table, looking out of her window at the mountains and ocean of the Pacific North West that she, a Londoner born and bred, made home. But she’s not here. Both she and my sister walked the journey of this dear woman; cancer, chemo, hospice, home and for some reason that only God knows, I journeyed down just the first two. You are right, how we face death tells so much of who and whose we are. I pray that when my time comes, whether in hospice or not, I can hold vigil for the time when I get to go home and help others enter grief with thankgiving.
Absolutely amazing! I will absorb the darkness of these days leading to victory! I’ve never thought about it that way either. I will ponder this for a few days..GOD is so good!!?and yes I to stalk profiles such as this b/c there is so much to learn and the love of God for others that squeezes our hearts sharing in their pain also and the opportunity to pray for them as well?
“facing death teaches us how to live” As I write today, I’m 2 days shy of my mom’s going home anniversary. She taught me many things in my life. In the end, she taught me how to gracefully go home. Thank you, Michele, for sharing your heart.