What I learned from watching my friend, a mom of 2 young kids, die of cancer
September 21, 2012 was just two years ago. I can’t believe the time that has passed by as I recall the life and death of my dear friend Angela Faddis.
My friend, a mother of two small children, was given the dreadful news that her body was full of cancer just months before it took her life. But she made every minute of her last days matter, and she and her husband Chris allowed people a window into their suffering through their writing at the time.
She was my quiet, calm friend whose soul became loud as she allowed many across the world to share in her suffering and her incredible faith. I’m proud to have been her friend. Her story and her faith have impacted and led many around the world to Christ.
Her final days touched me to the core as she surrendered her wants, needs, and life over to death—a death that would end in new life.
It was those final days when most in our culture would have advocated euthanasia to put a quick end to her pain. But, it was in her suffering that she grew the deepest in her faith and her love for life. It was in her suffering that the lives of those around her changed forever.
This picture is one Chris posted online during her stay at the hospital just weeks before she died.
I have many pictures like this on my own camera, taken while sitting at her bedside in the hospital during her last weeks on earth. The faces of her children trying to grasp what was happening to their mother will be forever etched in my mind. I remember my heart breaking daily at the thought that she would soon be gone. Watching someone die is hard. Words cannot explain it. But, I would do it all over again if given the choice. I feel honored and blessed to have been a part of this time in her life.
A year after her death, Chris spoke to a large audience about Angela,
When your wife lies in a bed riddled with a disease that silently and secretly grew inside for years before suddenly making itself known and all you can think is ‘why God why?’ How do you sing?”
I still hear the ringing in my ears as I think of that morning. The deafening words spoken by the young doctor still bring me to my knees. Just like that, our lives – at least our vision of our lives and all that we assumed was assured, crashed to the floor.
Shattered pieces of glass, the only sign left of what we once knew for certain. Our love, our family, our hopes for our future, our desires and dreams—all of them no longer in our hands. All of it, in a million pieces. Frozen in time is that moment. Scattered in time are those dreams. The ringing. The glass—a million pieces. What do you say when your lover lies in a bed, hearing the same words as you? Knowing what it means, what it all likely means. Death. End. Loss. Words, they come easy for me, but not now. Not in this moment. I try, I attempt to muster some sort of comfort—no words; they don’t come.”
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Chris spoke of Angela’s first response to hearing the news, “She, the one who has a hard time with words, the one who needs the comfort in this moment — she, she says the words – the only words that matter. ‘Jesus still rose, so we will trust.’ Shattered hopes, shattered dreams, a shattered life – and she says the only thing that matters in this life. Jesus still rose.”
Chris continued to describe the way Angela’s faith and trust affected so many others who were drawn to the Lord through her suffering. There was purpose in her suffering, far more than they will ever know.
Chris wrote their story in a book that came out a year after her death, called, “It Is Well: Life in the Storm.” The title plays off the hymn written by Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well With My Soul,” and poses the question we should all be asking ourselves. Can we say midst of tragedy and suffering, “It is well with my soul?”
Angela’s answer was, “Yes! Because Jesus still rose, so I will trust.”
My humanness wants to reduce this statement to a feeling. Does my soul feel well? It doesn’t matter how I feel. Our faith, like love, can never be reduced to a feeling. It can be well with our souls regardless of our circumstances because we have Heaven. Angela found out about her cancer on Easter Sunday, and when she said, “Jesus still rose, so I will trust,” she meant Jesus rose…..HEAVEN IS REAL…JESUS IS LORD…so I will trust! It can still be well with my soul.
In our human weakness we will have times of worry, anxiety, and even fear. However, we can still say, “it is well with my soul” because pain, tragedy, heartache, and uncertain circumstances don’t have to paralyze us in doing all that we can to get ourselves and others to Heaven. My soul is well when I commit to trusting in the Lord, when I pray faithfully, and when I choose good over evil in the midst of my struggle and my deepest feelings.
The Lord is our rock, and our true security, not anything this world offers.
It can be well with our souls even in hard-times and heartache because there is hope for a life with God in Heaven, which is the real prize. This is the message I learned from watching my friend die a dignified death—she lived her final days offering her suffering for the conversion of others. There was redemption in her suffering. And when many would be terrified to hear the words that your time on earth has run out, Angela embraced them and lived knowing this was not the end but the beginning of her eternal life. And, it was well with her soul. And, there was beauty in her death.
So her life and death should beg the question for all of us, “Is it well with my soul?”
“It Is Well: Life in the Storm” by Chris Faddis is an encounter with the living God. I encourage everyone to read this beautiful true story of heroic love and faith. Check out more about the book here.
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