Cultivate Blog

Hope, Even in Hospice

Categories: Stories

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A Grandmother Shares God’s Story of Hope as She Faces Death

As I’m currently in hospice care, it is vitally important to me that my grandchildren, other family members and friends, and hospice care workers know about heaven and how to go there.  Here’s my story: I was a healthy, young lady with two kids, ages nine and four, in 1988. I went through what was supposed to be a minor surgery to correct a mild gastro-intestinal problem. I came out with a life-altering complication which impacted my ability to ever function normally again.

Friends

During the minor procedure, the surgeon damaged my vagus nerve, a major nerve which controls many of the body’s involuntary functions. The minor GI symptoms I went into the surgery to correct became so severe that I would never be able to survive on oral food again. I was diagnosed with a condition known as gastroparesis. Gastroparesis literally means stomach paralysis. My stomach lost the ability to move food through the digestive tract. This resulted in chronic and debilitating nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, malnutrition, dehydration, and additional complications over the years.

I have spent the last 30 years of my life receiving all my nutrition through feeding tubes or IV nutrition, and have encountered hundreds of complications

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which should have taken my life. As a Christian since childhood, I have never feared death, but I also have a love for life and believe it's worth fighting for.

Several years ago, I reached a point where it became clear my condition was terminal. I started developing problems that my doctors couldn't treat because in my weakened state; the treatments would kill me. Knowing this, I began the process of entering hospice to help manage my pain and other symptoms as comfortably as possible for the remaining time I have left. As this process was beginning, I received a copy of Reflections from God’s Story of Hope as a gift to bring comfort to me during this time. It has done far more than that. This coffee table book impacted me so much that I ordered more for my family through the Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship website. I discovered even more resources there that I felt would offer me great opportunities to reach out to those around me. I purchased a copy for each of my grown children, some music for my grandchildren, and the study guide book for parents.

Kids

On July 1, 2016, my 60th birthday, my two older grandchildren, Emmalyn, 6, and Blake, 5, joined me in my hospital bed. I told them we needed to discuss something serious. I wanted to be able to talk to them about my death without breaking down. The Story of Hope allowed me to do that. In about 30 minutes, I took them through The Story of Hope. They were mesmerized by the illustration of Heaven and it opened a great opportunity to talk to them comfortably. I asked them if they knew that I would be going to heaven after death. They said they did. I made sure they understood that I wouldn't be able to come back, but someday they could come to me. They said they understood that too. I immediately felt as if a big load was lifted off me.

A little while later my oldest grandchild, Emmalyn, came to me and said “I just had a dream! I know what Heaven looks like and it's beautiful!” Although my initial goal was to comfort my grandchildren by helping them understand I was going to be OK, in the end they comforted me instead by assuring me that they were going to be OK too. Since then, the entire family has experienced so much peace and comfort as my time on earth nears the end.

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On Christmas Eve, 2016, Emmalyn came home from church and said “MawMaw, I’m a Christian! I went to church and became a Christian and I know I’ll get to see you!” Knowing that she believes and realizes we will be together again someday makes this process so much easier. The Story of Hope has been critical in easing the difficulty of talking to my grandchildren in a way in which they can understand and accept.

Ladies

Over the past year as my hospice staff has been caring for me, I have been handing out signed copies of Reflections to them. Although they are still not attending church, they have commented on how beautiful the images are and how easy it is to understand. It has planted some seeds that I hope will grow even beyond my time. I still read Reflections regularly and continue to hand it out to anyone I encounter. It is a beautiful, beautiful book. It has been a blessing – a total blessing. It has made this a whole lot easier for my family. The kids understand what is happening.

-Sherri Milburn

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