When my cousin Marti was four (or was it five?), she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given six months to live. I’m not saying that the doctors were wrong, they just didn’t know that God had other plans for her and for all of us.
As I remember it — and I was only ten myself — they couldn’t operate because of the location of the tumor. There was radiation and chemo. There was eventually a surgery to put in a shunt to drain off liquid that accumulated around the tumor. She was eventually sent home.
Then she was sent to school. I remember when we got the news that she was cleared by the doctors for all activity at school except contact sports. None of us could picture Marti Jo playing football, so that was not a problem.
Marti grew up. She eventually had the shunt extended since it was still doing something she needed done — but the tumor was no longer. In some ways, every year of her life after her 5th birthday was a bonus year.
What has MJ done with those bonus years? Served people. Every job she had involved helping others in some way. Her most recent work has been at an extended care facility where she cared for patients and—because this is who she is—for colleagues who needed a listening ear or a way to leave an hour early to be at their kid’s game. Through children’s ministry at her church, Marti served hundreds of families.
When her Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and then dramatically outlived the doctor’s estimates, Marti lived with her folks and helped her mom in all sorts of ways.
And then there are the family-famous and beyond Marti bars. Family gatherings for decades have included a variety of baked goods made at the hands of Marti working early in the morning or after a long shift. While it’s all been great, the Marti bars are the ones that have become a kind of sugar-coma inducing crack in our family. I often have left family gatherings with a few of those in a Zip-loc bag for the flight home. Sometimes they make it to the plane.
A bit over two years ago Marti found out that her body was, once again, betraying her desire to serve. New non-cancerous growths were invading her brain. Inoperable. Temporarily responsive to treatment. Bad. She battled and rallied the summer of 2011. When I saw her then she’d been cleared to go back to work the next week. Had I not known, I would have never guessed that she’d been near death just months before.
That good season was short. But it was critical. It was during that season of renewed health that her dad—my uncle Tim—breathed his last on earth. When we were back for the memorial service early that fall, Marti-bars were on the kitchen counter.
And then the symptoms began to return. And treatments which include steroids began again.
Yesterday the hospice nurses told the family to gather. Marti has 4 siblings and they’ve been mostly gathered as part of the care team for months. Marti hasn’t been out of a hospital bed in the home for three weeks. She wants to go Home where Jesus has promised full relief and full restoration beyond anything she can currently imagine.
Some might say that the healing when she was a wee person is the miracle in her life that is worth attention. I say that her tenacity to live and serve—often through pain that would have most of us disabled—is the greater miracle.
My next paragraph was going to say that the phone didn’t ring over night, though I really wouldn’t have expected a call until morning even if she did get her wish to be fully with Jesus today. I got distracted, looking in iPhoto for a photo to share.
The phone rang.
My sweet cousin got her wish. I’m thrilled for her. And sad.