The moment that I found out that Nick’s 10 month remission had come to an end still remains as one of the very worst moments of my life. We were in Omaha for his check-up with his surgeon. We all were expecting good news. He had been experiencing some pain, but the pain was quickly dismissed as a possible side effect from an earlier colonoscopy. There was possibly a slight laceration on his colon and septic shock could be on the way. This would indeed be a serious issue, but I knew that we could overcome it. Our specialist wanted to confirm that it was in fact an issue with his colon and we would have to monitor Nick in the hospital, so he ordered an exploratory biopsy. He assured us that he was 99.9% sure that it was NOT cancer. As he walked out of the room to go teach a lecture, he turned around to assure us again. “It can’t be cancer. It doesn’t come back this fast. Ever. If it is cancer… then….” He mouth formed a grimace, his eyes turned dark. I nodded my head. We got it. It couldn’t be cancer. It just couldn’t.
But, when I heard the word “biopsy,” my heart dropped and I called out to the Lord. Even through the assurance in our surgeon’s voice, I knew there was a slight chance of cancer. When you’re just ten months out from a life saving chemo surgery, all bets are still off. As they wheeled him out of the hospital room, Nick turned to me. “I love you, Alyssa. Remember, that no matter what this is, we will get through it.” When he was gone, and I found myself alone in that hospital room, immediate dread came over me and I knew something was wrong. When 10 minutes passed, I grew anxious. How was this happening? The procedure was supposed to be quick. A small prick and then he’d be back. When 20 minutes passed, I knew something was definitely wrong. But, it couldn’t be. He was only 25. Our lives were just getting back on track. We were having a baby for goodness sakes! A nurse walked in to let me know that the liquid was too thick to remove with a needle. She said that they had to put him under and make a small incision.
Now it was in this moment, when my last bit of resolve ripped until it was hanging by only the tiniest thread. I knew what “too thick” meant. We had experienced this last time. His mucous-y tumors were too thick to be drawn up through even the largest gage needle for a simple biopsy. I began pleading with the Lord. “PLEASE GOD. PLEASE, LET HIM BE SEPTIC.” What a hope, right? I knew what such a swift return of the cancer would mean, I couldn’t stop picturing our surgeon’s eyes and hearing his words… “If it’s cancer…” I knew there would be no way out. So, I prayed and prayed and prayed, curled up in a chair in the corner, trying to keep my sanity, that he “simply” had a hole in his colon. It took all my strength not to run down the halls screaming Nick’s name.
When they wheeled him back in and I saw him, barely conscious, I ran to his side and grabbed his hand. I saw the four incisions in his belly and my suspicions grew. They couldn’t get to the fluid the first three slices. But, maybe… Just maybe, they had to do that for septic patients too? This could not be happening to us again! We had beat this!! But, if he was septic, he wouldn’t be in here. He would be in emergency surgery. The pieces were coming together but I didn’t want them to. I refused to believe. I didn’t want to ask. I didn’t want to know. But, I just couldn’t keep my emotional 15-week-pregnant-self from asking. I couldn’t wait ten minutes for the doctors. “What is it? What did they find?!” I’m sure I looked almost frantic as I held my husbands hand with my left hand, my knuckles white; my other arm around my middle, trying to protect my unborn child; my hair disheveled, my cheeks streaked with tears and mascara.
“It’s nothing to worry about. They just found some mucous-y growths.” The older nurse responded with an almost sing-songy voice and a little grin, clearly trying to put me at ease. The look of absolute horror on my face brought immense confusion to theirs. “Don’t overreact, sweetie. Doctors find stuff like this all the time. It’s normally benign and your husband is so young and healthy. I’m sure it’s nothing…” Her confidence dissolved before my eyes as she took in my reaction.
I suddenly became very dizzy. I couldn’t breathe. I collapsed into the chair. I heard myself repeating over and over, “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. It’s cancer. Oh my God. Please no. It’s back. God, no!” The poor nurses didn’t know what they had said, they clearly hadn’t read his chart, and shot looks of concerned shock back and forth between each other. The older nurse came and held me, someone handed me water that I couldn’t drink. They told me to calm down for the baby. They continued to tell me that it would be ok.
I had just about collected myself so that they would trust me enough to get the heck out and leave me with my still-sedated husband, when Holly (our surgeon’s Physician’s Assistant and right-hand woman) walked in.
Before she had a chance to speak, the look on her face confirmed it for me; my absolute worst fear had come true. Nick’s cancer was back and the chances of him beating it this time were slim at best…
This was October 4th, of 2012. From that moment on, my world was turned upside down. I spent so many of the following months doing research, praying for a miracle, lobbying for surgeries, attempting natural treatments, and taking care of my husband as those failed and he began the systemic chemo treatments that kept him alive long enough to meet our daughter.
Nick and I discussed so many things in those months. So many hopes and dreams we had for our coming baby (whom, weeks later, we found out was a girl). There were a couple of questions that we had that we felt were important for us to answer truthfully. So, using the one and only absolute truth tool, we turned to the Bible for the answers. I wanted to share the questions we had as I feel that they may be helpful to someone, somewhere.
Nick was excited for Heaven and I was excited for him BUT these questions kept me awake at night…. God, what about us? What about Nick and I and the life we’ve led? What would we be when he was gone? When he is the one thing that made my life worth living and I was everything he wanted, how in the world could Heaven be “better?” Wouldn’t he miss me?”
These questions plagued me for months. How could he be “better than ok” anywhere without me? And, after all the time together and all the tears we shed and joy we shared, was he even going to remember me?
I read a book (that I probably already recommended to you) called Heaven by Randy Alcorn and tested it against the Bible and a few things from this book and a few others helped me form answers to some of my most pressing questions.
So, What is For Real about Heaven, anyway?
Here are some of the questions Nick and I asked and what I think about them. These are my opinions and I obviously don’t claim to be great Biblical scholar, I have no formal seminary teaching and I will never claim that I know much about anything. But, I do know that this is what has been revealed to me now. I am still working through some of these but have some peace knowing that I don’t have to “get” it all the time… because God’s got it. The Bible says that we cannot imagine the treasures that await us in Heaven. But, it doesn’t say that we shouldn’t try to imagine it. Randy explains this so fluently that I thought I would include a passage from his book below.
“A pastor visiting my office asked what I was writing. “A big book on Heaven,” I said. “Well,” he replied, “since Scripture says ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,’ what will you be talking about? Obviously, we can’t know what God has prepared for us in Heaven.” (He was referring to 1 Corinthians 2:9.) said to him what I always say: “You didn’t complete the sentence. You also have to read verse ten.” Here’s how the complete sentence reads: “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (emphasis added). The context makes it clear that this revelation is God’s Word (v. 13), which tells us what God has prepared for us. After reading a few dozen books about Heaven, I came to instinctively cringe whenever I saw 1 Corinthians 2:9. It’s a wonderful verse; it’s just that it’s nearly always misused. It says precisely the opposite of what it’s cited to prove!” – from Heaven by Randy Alcorn, page 18
1. Will He Remember Me?
We will have resurrected bodies. Bodies that are without fault and free from sin and pain. Our minds are a part of our body so I believe that our memories will be MORE easily called upon and even MORE clear. And, yes, I think we will be able to remember the hard times too but Gods presence and the ability to see the big picture will make it so that the memories don’t hurt but simply proclaim gods redemptive forces in our lives! Hallelujah!! So, yes I believe that your loved ones WILL remember you and Nick will remember me and yet they will still be happy beyond belief.
“Memory is a basic element of personality. If we are truly ourselves in Heaven, there must be continuity of memory from Earth to Heaven. We will not be different people, but the same people marvelously related and transformed. Heaven cleanses us but does not revise or extinguish our origins or history. Undoubtedly we will remember God’s works of grace in our lives that comforted, assured, sustained, and empowered us to live for him.” – from Heaven by Randy Alcorn, page 68
2. Will He Miss Me?
I’m not quite sure how this theory would work yet but I’ve been developing it myself while looking at these books and the Bible and I think it could make sense. Eternity has no beginning and no end, right? So how can there be any form of “waiting?” There is past… There is present… And there is future. But, our futures are unlimited. They go on forever. So, my theory is that since time will NOT be like the limited time we spend here (where an ominous end looms in our future), it will seem to our loved ones that we are skipping through Heaven’s gates right on their heals. (Even if I live another fifty years down here, it will feel like the blink of an eye.) Does this make sense? I think it could even feel like we all get there at the same time, somehow. After all, what is 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years in the scheme of forever?
Our futures will be unlimited and we will no longer be tempted to “number our days” (Psalm 90:12) or make the most of our time. Time will be an unlimited, never-ending resource and we will be lost in the joys of life fully lived, making conversation with those we love, celebrating, creating and simply being with our Creator.
“Time is the mould of our created human existence. Sin led to the fact that we have no time, and that we spend a hurried existence between past and future. But the consummation as the glorification of existence will not mean that we are taken out of time and delivered from time, but that time as the form of our glorified existence will also be fulfilled and glorified. Consummation means to live again in the succession of past, present and future, but in such a way that the past moves along with us as a blessing and the future radiates through the present so that we strive without restlessness and rest without idleness, and so that, thought always progressing, we are always at our destination.” – theologian, Henry Berkhof
3. Will We Still Be Friends?
God created man and woman and saw that we were good. He made us beings that crave relationship with one another and these healthy relationships are not bad. Us sinners (each and every one of us) can aim to love each other as Christ loved us and that glorifies Him, though we are not perfect. (All of our relationships with each other are, indeed, a beautiful and tragic mess. That’s what happens when you put two sinners together. But, that’s a whole other post.) Anyway… the Heavens were created before the earth. Everything here on this earth is just a glimmer of what it was meant to be. When God created the Garden of Eden, He saw that it was good but He wanted people there alongside each other to care for it. This bit is important. God didn’t just create Adam. In fact, when He created Adam, it was the only time He created something and saw that it was “not good.” It was not good, without Eve, that is. Adam was not made to be alone. And, we, like Adam, are creatures that were made for relationship with God and with humankind. And, I believe that our relationships will matter just as much in Heaven. I do not think that we were made to be alone, ever. In Heaven, we will have loved ones and we will have beautiful relationships with our savior and those we love. There will be conversation and humor and creativity and things to do, people to see. We will celebrate and feast TOGETHER! I have no idea what marriage will mean in Heaven and I don’t think legalities will matter as much up there. But I do think that family will still exist. Nick and I will always be all that we ever were to each other. Our love will not die.
“Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way you always did.
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile,. Thinkg of me. Pray for me.
Let me name be the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without effot.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of your mind
Because I am out of your sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before;
Only better, infinitely happier, and forever;
We will be one together with the Lord.”
-from a poem, TOGETHERNESS by Anonymous
Death does not have to change what we have. Heaven, an eternity with our loved ones and our Savior, will only make what we had that much better!!
When I think back to that October in Omaha, my heart still races and my palms still get sweaty, remembering the intense emotions that flowed through me. But, I have a peace in my heart. I look back and know that through all the tears and all the pain, the Lord was there. He heard my cries. I wasn’t alone. The Lord continues to redeem me with His love; day-by-day and moment-by-moment. He guides me. And, all over again, I find myself face-to-face with His amazing grace and His unbelievable mercy. In the end, I know that no matter what I will have to endure in this life, I will always, ALWAYS have Him by my side. Whether my theories above are right or wrong has no ground on whether or not I will see Nick again or see God. I can stand firm on what God promises us in the Bible. His love is never-ending and He has some dang good plans for each of us.
Sometimes I wonder if, for some reason higher than we could ever hope to understand, we have to experience loss in this life. Because, when everything you have has been ripped away, it is the only time we finally and completely grasp the truth. That He alone is truly all that we’ve ever needed.