Whenever a Christian is befuddled with how something happens in their life that seems to represent the missing puzzle piece to a struggle they’ve been going through, they are often content with the phrase that “God works in mysterious ways.”
His ways might mean putting just the right person in your path, suddenly making the solution to a problem crystal clear or even speaking something simple in your ear that makes everything fall into place. Of course, a person has to be willing and open to His partnership in their life. God doesn’t usually just whisper to anybody.
Just the other day, I was searching for something when He let me understand what I had been missing.
The mother of a very special woman in my life passed away last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was in her native Hawaii when she passed, but her only daughter was in Las Vegas.
Here’s where things turn to quicksand.
A year or two ago, the mother had lost a 40-year-old son to cancer in California. Late last year, her 50-year-old daughter Lani had an emergency heart transplant. For each, this mother made numerous trips from Hawaii to the Mainland to be with her children. This family has been put through the medical ringer several times.
So when Maile was given only days to live, the family far and near swarmed to be with her — including the daughter who was still dealing with medical issues in a Las Vegas hospital 2,700 miles away. This was no easy task. Doctors were consulted and a plan was hatched to send Lani to Hawaii with an ICU nurse, who made sure her patient was kept calm and checked into the same Maui hospital as her mother once the plane had landed.
All went well … until two days later, when the mother passed in her sleep. Lani, as she had since arriving “home,” was sharing her mother’s bed when the end came. And it took a gargantuan effort by Lani’s uncle to separate her from his sister.
On Monday, a viewing was held and, on Tuesday, Maile’s body was cremated. Her ashes were to be spread into the Pacific Ocean sometime this week.
For someone with a healthy heart, this chain of events would weigh heavily and even create the real possibility of collapse. But with a heart that is being challenged because it is not yet completely compatible with its new vessel, the past week has to have been a minute-by-minute medical miracle.
My own heart goes out to Lani and her family. Being 2,325 miles away from Las Vegas and 5,025 miles from Hawaii, there is little that I can physically do, so verbal and written support is the short list of my involvement. But it hardly represents the hours I’ve spent thinking about the entire situation, and it soon got me wondering about life and death and God’s plan for each of us.
I wasn’t content to simply accept that “God works in mysterious ways” because it just didn’t seem to give any closure to something like this.
Then, the other day I was reminded of the only quote from a famous doctor that I’ve always remembered: “Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened.”
The famous doctor was Dr. Seuss, and I hadn’t thought of that quote in a very long time. It’s not in a book, that I know of, but came from one of Ted Geisel’s public speeches — though most reliable sources are unable to pinpoint it exactly.
But it wasn’t the good doctor who made me think of the quote, and it wasn’t anything I was doing specifically that brought attention or recollection of it. It had to be God whispering it to me as a way to settle my own heart on the matter. And it worked.
He knows I’ve never been one for funerals, mostly because it’s rarely the celebration of life I think they should be. Instead, I’m prone to spending my own time remembering the individual — the humorous stories, the good things they contributed to their community and their family and my life.
Although I’d never met Maile, “Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened” allowed me to recall the things Lani told me about her mother and how close they were. My heart still hurts for Lani and her family, but in time I know their tears will dry and they, too, will be able to laugh because Maile’s life happened — and they were all the beneficiaries of that.
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.