An aortic aneurysm is called a “widowmaker.”
An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the aorta to greater than 1.5 times normal size… Aortic aneurysms cause weakness in the wall of the aorta and increase the risk of aortic rupture. When rupture occurs, massive internal bleeding results and, unless treated immediately, shock and death can occur. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aortic_aneurysm
My husband lived with his aortic aneurysm for many decades. Every six months we simply went to the cardiologist to check its status. One fateful day eleven years ago everything changed. We were informed that John’s aneurysm had doubled in size since his last test only six months previously. The enormous shock of that report was surpassed by only one other event – what the Lord did immediately after the doctor’s news.
I will never forget that moment and I know it will live with me all the days of my life. I heard the doctor’s report, walked out of his office to drive home, stepped off the curb into the parking lot and between the top of that curb to the bottom of that step I “heard” deep in my spirit the words “Psalm 139.” I knew this was God, although I was unaccustomed to hearing from Him in quite this manner. When I read Ps. 139 and came to verse 16, there was no doubt at all that it was God:
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.
The joy, the peace I felt! I knew what the Lord was saying to me and my beloved husband – we need not fear! All the days of his life were already written in God’s book and he wasn’t going to die one day, one second, sooner than God decreed! I could rest in that and so could he.
So our journey started. So convinced were the doctors that John would need surgery immediately thereafter, they suggested we tour the brand new INOVA Fairfax Cardiac Hospital. After all, we’d be spending time there wouldn’t we? At that time, this type of surgery had a 95% fatality rate. We did the sensible thing and asked the whole church to pray. And God decided to add another joyful episode to this thrilling story: the church prayed and the next test showed that the aneurysm had grown no larger. Better yet, it grew no larger for eleven years!
During those eleven years, medical science advanced so that the surgery was now no longer 95% unsuccessful, but 95% successful. More importantly, John and I had eleven more years to grow in the Lord and rest in His love and mercy. We especially had time to rest in the truth of Psalm 139:16. In March of 2019 we were both prepared for the surgery that was finally necessary because the aneurysm had grown. There were three problems with John’s heart, not just the aneurysm. However, following surgery, the surgeon said the operation was “uneventful” and all seemed well. Somehow, however, he encountered one complication after another over the next eleven months and it became obvious that the Lord was bringing my husband’s time to a close.
THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF DEATH
Many years ago, my oldest and dearest friend died of a brain tumor in such a magnificent way that the episode was a story passed down to her relatives and friends–a story so wonderful that I joyfully tell others to demonstrate the wonder of our God. It had such an impact on me that I asked the Lord if He would give our deaths a story. I longed for the story of our deaths to glorify to God. What follows are the precious circumstances of my husband’s death on February 21, 2020.
John became ill February 12 after having had a slight cough for a few days but no fever, yet he became more confused as the day went on. We called 911 and he was admitted to the hospital. Surprisingly, we learned he had double pneumonia. The following day he had a stroke and was intubated. The next several points are very important. His right arm and hand became paralyzed. The pain kept him always moving in his bed, as if he were trying to escape it. We played music 24/7 for the eight days in hospital/hospice.
The doctors decided to do a brain MRI to see the extent of the stroke – the MRI pattern looked like a bunch of fireworks had gone off. One significant event happened during his MRI. My 6’4” husband who barely fit in the the MRI enclosure pulled out his intubation tube while having the MRI performed – remember his right arm and hand were paralyzed. The next day he refused food; the day after, he refused liquids. Yet, there was something more than the physical occurring in his room. The peace in the room was almost palpable – you could nearly feel it. Even the nurses were aware of it. They prayed with us. Our son decided to read a series of Psalms to his father. John loved Psalms.The night before John’s death, Jake, the youngest grandson, read 15 Psalms to my husband. But the most interesting Psalm-reading took place between two friends and myself. They came in before service on February 16 to read to John but Tonya was most insistent that Erick not read Psalm 23 because it had that verse in it that talks about death: “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” (I didn’t know anything about what happened with these friends until after John died).
My daughter, Tracy, and I went to see my husband the day before he died. As we were getting out of the car, I prayed: Father, I don’t know what to say; please let my words be Your words. We went to his room and he was still moving around a lot in bed. Tracy talked with him, then I did. And, amazingly, what did the Lord have me talk about? Heaven! On and on about Heaven. And then He had me recite the 23rd Psalm to my husband – which the Lord had had me memorize when I was a baby Christian. John became very still when I was doing all this, very peaceful, even Tracy noticed it from across the room …and then he squeezed my hand with his paralyzed right hand❣️ (Remember, John’s right arm and hand were paralyzed after the stroke!). You see, Tonya knew John wasn’t supposed to hear the 23rd Psalm from anyone but me.
We went home and the next morning received the call telling us John had died peacefully at about 10:45 am. We went to hospice and this is where the Lord gave the perfect ending to the story I had asked for. When we got there, one of the directors came apologizing to us. She said she’d been in the room about 10 minutes before John died and except for some slight labored breathing, he appeared fine. She stepped out of the room to do some paper work and, so she said, he died alone. Died alone? I gave her the biggest smile – he wasn’t alone – Psalm 23 says THE LORD WAS WITH HIM💗💗💗. That’s why my husband looked so peaceful. God, in His love and faithfulness, had deigned to answer my prayer – He had given me a story to tell; a story to share of the faithfulness and goodness of an ever-loving God. Wonderful, isn’t it?!