The following was written by Carol Ekholm last July. At that time she was dealing with pancreatitis, but as many of you know she is now at home suffering from pancreatic cancer. I have had the joy and privilege of being Carol’s friend. I asked her if I could share her testimony on this blog and she was delighted to have me do so. She is a wonderful witness to her faith, and a role model for me and many others.
Lying in a hospital bed for a week with pancreatitis and recovering from gall bladder surgery was a stressful experience. The absence of food and liquids during that time was difficult and was made even more traumatic when combined with pain and sleep deprivation. I began to feel very disoriented and realized that all of the above created days with no structure. Reading, dozing, TV and phone calls could not fill 24 hours. I finally decided that I needed to have something to occupy my mind since I wasn’t even mobile enough to walk the halls as I saw so many patients doing.
I decided that my mental and spiritual exercise would be to scroll through my life and pick out all the people that had hurt and seriously offended me, and one by one forgive them. This was not done to benefit anyone but myself – to rid myself of the baggage I was carrying which served no purpose except to burden me. This took quite a while and included having to conjure up experiences that I would have liked to forget. After this purge I then went back over my life and, amazingly, discovered that I had more blessings than I could count. After removing the depressing and painful parts, I realized I have had a very blessed life. I have three wonderful children, I’ve traveled all over the world and have experienced things I never dreamed I would do, and have met so many wonderful people along this journey – many of whom have helped me to grow in my faith.
Discover number two is that I saw more clearly the pattern of God’s hand in my life – putting me where I should be at the right time – his plan, not mine. I never considered myself a control freak (well, maybe a little) but I remember in my early walk with God that my prayers only addressed what I considered the “big issues” in my life – to a distant God that was too busy to be bothered with my little problems. Because God also provided me with many Christian mentors along the way I discovered God, my Father, my friend. I could talk to him while I cleaned the house, drove the car, gardened and could share all my thoughts and concerns with him.
The last thing I found which related to God’s plan for me, was the problem I had with moving so frequently and having to say goodbye to the new friends I had made. I remember during my first overseas move to Australia, after establishing a network of friends, one family I was especially fond of was sent back to the U.S. I was devastated and wrote a poem entitled “every time I say goodbye a little bit inside me dies” (this is supposedly an old French Proverb.) *Becky’s note: I have included that poem at the end of this writing It expressed the fact that when it was time to say goodbye, I realized I had never articulated my feelings to someone I considered a good friend and at that moment I was too emotional to express these feelings. The part I didn’t understand, which now became clear, was that each of these experiences was like chapter in the book of my life. In each chapter God provided me with new experiences, new friends, and the opportunity to learn more about my faith and myself. More blessing from God.
Bottom line is that the more I grew in my faith the more I knew that I was never alone and there was only one stable thing in my life – that God was there for me 24/7. My favorite hymn is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. I find that comforting and reassuring – that I am never alone.
Since being diagnosed with the probability of pancreatic cancer I find myself relying on the prayers and support of family and friends and on the wisdom and skills of my doctors (more of God’s gifts to me). I feel comfortable about sharing my love and faith more openly with others. Many doctors have treated me over a 10 month period and most of them have, when giving me any good news or hope, heard me say, “Thank you, Lord.”
I pray for many things now – for family and friends who are suffering. For my grandchildren to be brought up learning about God’s love for them. I thank God for all I have – so much more than most people on this earth. And, I pray for healing. I know God loves me. I know he does not “send” me suffering – I feel that this is part of being in a sinful and imperfect world. I know that God does not want me to suffer and that I will be healed – either here or in heaven – this is His plan for me.
All the above is not to claim any kind of perfection in my life. I still have my fears and anxiety and occasionally give in to moments of self pity. While the quality of my physical life declines I have seen the increase in the quality of my spiritual life. When I am unable to pray, I am comforted by knowing I am in the prayers of family and friends. I also know, without a doubt, that my strength will only come from my faith and God’s love.
“Each time I say goodbye a little bit inside me dies…”
I fight to control the panic that rises up inside, the burning pain behind my eyes
of unshed tears – as uncontrollable as the lump in my throat which chokes off the words
I cannot now express.
Well-rehearsed thoughts of love, laughter,
Moments of shared pain and joy lay silent on my lips as the burden of parting
Lays heavy on my heart.
And finally, when the moment has passed, so too has passed the opportunity
To reveal to someone you love, the depth of feeling seldom expressed
In day to day encounters.