The first time I saw Debbie, I thought she was a little girl. She was short – less than five feet tall – with carrot-colored hair, the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and a wonderful smile. She seemed nervous. I suppose that’s normal when a guy takes a girl home to meet his Mom for the first time.
After we were introduced, I realized she wasn’t a little girl at all, but was actually thirty-something. Debbie was easy to like and, in no time, we were talking and laughing effortlessly – on our way to becoming friends.
It didn’t take her long to steal my son’s heart. They dated for a while and he started bringing her around more and more. She became a regular at family gatherings and finally, one day, they announced they were getting married.
And so... Debbie became a member of our family and, for the next twenty-five years she was one of us! She and Kevin eventually bought a house, acquired a couple of dogs that were like children to them and her son from a former marriage visited often. It appeared they’d live happily ever after. The perfect couple! If ever a marriage was made in Heaven, this was it.
But if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change! Nothing ever stays the same. Sometimes, when things are going very well, we wish they’d never change but, deep down in our soul, we know they will because that’s just the way life is. Without change, we wouldn’t grow. Without change, we wouldn’t learn. Without change, life would become stale.
Most of us don’t like change because we fear the unknown. But it comes whether we want it or not, and whether or not we like it!
Some say change is not difficult if you’re in control, but when we have no control over the changes in our life, it’s harder to adjust to them.
Unfortunately, all changes aren’t good. Some alter your life in ways that aren’t welcome. And that’s what happened in Debbie’s case.
She became ill.
For the next several years, it was up and down for Debbie. She had to see doctors often, take medication for back pain, asthma and other ailments as they arose. She didn’t sleep well. Couldn’t eat much and lost weight. Periodically, she had to spend time in the hospital. Finally, after many tests, she was diagnosed with liver disease. This caused water to accumulate in her tissues and she had to go to the hospital regularly to have the water drained. In short, she was never really well again.
Kevin took over the grocery shopping, cooking, laundry and whatever housework was done. He worked part-time so he was available to take Debbie for doctor appointments and be with her most of the time. At holiday time, she enjoyed going to her sister’s house to celebrate with her four sisters and their families. She also accompanied Kevin to our house to see the rest of the family, but she tired easily and could never stay long.
It was so sad watching her become weaker and weaker.
For the past few years, they traveled to Pittsburgh often to a hospital recommended by her doctor, so she could be evaluated and, hopefully, be put on a transplant list. At times, Debbie got so excited talking about a transplant. She’d say, “If I can just get a new liver, I’ll be well again, and be able to do all the things I used to do!”
But it never happened. Trip after trip to Pittsburgh ended with Kevin telling us that the doctors said, “She’s not ready yet.”
As her health deteriorated, so did her mood. She became depressed and, at one point, was ready to give up. She said, “They’re never going to give me a liver! They only give them to younger people. It’s hopeless.”
She often asked me to pray for her and, of course, I did. She was also on the prayer list at my church. Many people were praying for Debbie.
Only a little more than two months ago, at Christmastime, she came to our house when the rest of the family was here. She was so much weaker than the last time I’d seen her. She had to be helped up and down the stairs and the mere act of trying to put food in her mouth tired her. Watching her was painful.
In early February, she went back to the hospital. Water was drained from her body until there was almost nothing left of her. She was there ten days. When she was released, she was so weak, Kevin had to carry her from the car to the house.
In a day or two, Hospice was called in and, after an evaluation, a nurse told the family that Debbie would be gone within 72 hours.
It was heartbreaking for everyone!
Two nights before she passed away, she woke up about two a.m. and told Kevin she was hungry. On this particular night, he was alone with her. He gave her something to eat and drink and after she finished, he said, “Do you want anything else?” Debbie said, “Yes. A big hug!” This delighted him! After he hugged her, she went back to sleep. He was so pleased to have these few minutes alone with his wife. He told me the next day that he felt sure this was the last time she’d be able to talk to him, but the next night, she awakened again – just long enough to tell him what a good nurse he had been and to say, “I love you!”
Debbie gave up the fight early on the morning of February 20th. Her husband and family were with her.
Pastor Brian Dean of Grace Baptist Temple spoke at Debbie’s memorial service. Attempting to bring peace to those who grieved, he explained just how different Debbie’s life was the instant she made the transition. “She’s no longer in pain,” he said, “and she’s been reunited with all the loved ones who went before her – her mother and father, an infant child, a special aunt and several nieces and nephews.” And his vivid description of the joy she surely felt as she surveyed the beauty of her eternal home brought tears to my eyes.
(Heaven will have a beauty beyond our imagination. It is like an entire city of transparent gold as clear as glass. Revelation 21:18)
At some point during her last few days, Debbie told Kevin that she didn’t want him to be sad and depressed after she was gone.
“I’m tired of being sick and there’s no hope for me,” she said, “but I want you to go on living and be happy.”
That’s the kind of person our Debbie was: unselfish, kind, generous, understanding, lovable – and more.
She was loved by many. She will be missed!