Betty was in her early sixties when she enrolled in our outpatient hospice service with terminal breast cancer. It’s been several years since Betty passed away, but I’ve kept something she told me shelved in the back of my mind. So, I called Betty’s sister, Loraine, and asked her permission to write this story.
Loraine reflected, “Betty found a lump in her breast about two years before she was diagnosed; but she didn’t go to the doctor until it was too late for her. She didn’t want to worry mom. Betty took after dad. She was always a little shy and a little difficult to strike up a conversation with. She was that way all her life. But she was very generous. She told me, ‘I would rather give to people. It makes me happy.’ If she bought herself something she would always ask me if I wanted one too. She was good to all of us. And she was always calm and she never complained about a thing. She was really easy to take care of.”
When I first met Betty, she lived with Loraine and Elmer. Despite their love and attention, Betty seemed depressed, like she’d thrown in the towel, resigned. She missed her home, which was just down the road, so she moved back. Loraine and Elmer were continually in and out providing care while respecting Betty’s privacy. As Betty’s condition declined it became even more difficult to strike up a conversation with her. But then suddenly and unexpectedly, Betty was transformed, changed “in the twinkling of an eye,” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). When I arrived for my visit Betty greeted me at the door with a smile; there was a glow about her. She was outgoing and inviting. She appeared to be at peace, to have that “peace that passes all understanding,” (Philippians 4:6). I just had to ask, “What in the world has happened to you?” Betty simply smiled and replied, “Acceptance is a wonderful thing!”
Betty’s breakthrough reminds me of another hospice patient and fellow pilgrim. Lucky was also in his sixties when he enrolled in our outpatient hospice service with end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. Lucky and I came to refer to his terminal illness as his “journey”. One day I asked, “Lucky, where are you on the road today?”, and he replied, “You know, I’ve been thinking about that word acceptance a lot lately. That’s an awfully big word. I’ve been thinking that if I can accept all these things that are happening to me as just a part of it (life), then I can go on and do what I can and need to do. But if I tell myself that it’s not supposed to be this way, then I’ll be miserable and make everyone around me miserable. I’ve found that I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into.” And so do we!
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” (Proverbs 23:7). “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You,(Isaiah 26:3).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble .