Today is the fifth anniversary of my precious daughter’s home going. Needless to say, November 2016 is a time I’ll never forget. Thinking back on it brings raw, gut-wrenching memories. I had never watched someone that I loved so deeply, suffer so much, for so long. I pray that I never have to again. Shelly was nearing the end of her life on earth and was about to see Jesus face to face. That alone should have brought comfort and peace, but for those of us who loved Shelly and would be left behind to mourn, it was a time of great sadness and sorrow. Even though our faith assured us that she would soon be free of pain, there was no telling our hearts to ignore the monster wave that was churning deep inside. It was extremely painful for this mother and grandmother to see Shelly’s husband, 4-year-old daughter, and four young adult children going through such sorrow. Our immediate and extended family and many friends were simply heartbroken. As for my own sense of loss, there were no words to describe my brokenness. Only God knew.
Shelly was exceptionally brave for 17 1/2 months, fighting against an unforgiving beast called pancreatic cancer. She fought hard and she kept the faith. She was strong and an encourager even in the shadow of the valley of death. She’d say, “God is good.” “He has a plan.” “Everything is going to be okay.” This precious girl of mine apologized to me countless times for her illness. As a mother herself, she could identify with my emotional pain, and discussed those feelings with me on more than one occasion. She was an amazing child of God, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend! She was such a bright light in our lives and loved everyone she met. Consequently, my girl was greatly loved not only by her family, but by many others.
Shelly’s last season of life came to her in God’s perfect timing, but much to soon for her family and friends. We didn’t understand the timing, but we continued to trust our Heavenly Father above all else. As her mother, it was a helpless feeling to watch my sweet girl fade away, day after day after day. It was as though a knife was slowly and deliberately being turned into my body, penetrating the deepest recesses of my heart. This time, there was no fixing the problem, as we mothers always want to do. Scores of prayers went up for Shelly from all around the world, and they were definitely felt by Shelly, and by us. But healing did not come in the way we had asked. God had a better, “longer lasting” plan—to give Shelly His PERFECT healing. On November 13, 2016, Shelly didn’t give up, but her tired and frail body did. She had gone as far as she could go in this life.
Before Shelly went to Heaven, she said, “Mom, I hope you’ll be able to tell your story some day.” She was so sick that I didn’t ask her to be more specific. In hindsight, I wish that I had. What did she mean??? My story since I was a young girl? Yes, I could certainly do that! My story of the 17 1/2 months I cared for her on a daily basis while her husband continued to hold down his job? If she was referring to that particular window of time, then I’d say it was her story that needed to be told–one of faith, perseverance, and bravery in the midst of harrowing circumstances and unimaginable physical pain and suffering.
It has been said that a mother never gets over the loss of a child. Based on my own experience, I will testify to the accuracy of that statement. God does, however, help us to be more than conquerors through it all. His presence is with us continuously if we call on Him. He carries us on days when we’re stuck and can’t seem to move forward. He helps us manage our grief rather than let it manage us.
Perhaps I’ll write more about Shelly’s journey from time to time. I will always include how faithful God was during that hard season of our lives, and how His faithfulness and love keeps us moving forward each day. I’ll share how grief and joy are able to co-exist simultaneously. Seems impossible, but it’s not. Five years later, we continue to experience both, as we go forward in FAITH and HOPE.
Friend, if you’re struggling with grief and sorrow over the loss of someone you loved, hold on to the One who will comfort you as only He can do. As much as you loved that person, God loved him/her more. By realizing that and remembering the many promises found in His Word, you will be able to move forward. It’s sometimes slow, but your relationship with Jesus will grow as you trust and depend on Him each day. He loves you and will see you through. Until next time, I’m praying for each of you.
Shelly Rena Forston
May 25, 1967 – November 13, 2016
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23 (ESV)
*The above photo of Shelly and I was taken at our lake place in East Texas, November 2010. It will always be one that I cherish.