One of Gail’s “cancer buddies” died last week.
Your first day on chemotherapy, when you have been told all the good it might do will ultimately not matter, is like walking into a torture chamber and being tied to a table and then helplessly watching while needles and tubes and machines invade your helpless body. “We’re going to fix you by poisoning you.” The whole experience is surreal and “newbies” to chemo are pretty easy to spot. Over twenty-two months, Gail saw the expressions on new victims' faces numerous times. On that harrowing day, having a friendly chat with fellow cell-mates is not primary in one’s mind.
Without our knowledge, several people in our church family had participated in a pancreatic cancer walk the weekend of her first chemo, and we were trying to figure out who did such a wonderful thing for Gail. Honestly, this was normal, not unusual for the Vibrant Church family. But it was still new to us. This group of Christ followers are arguably the most caring and kind church family one could ever desire. I could easily cover several hundred pages with stories of how our church cared for us throughout this process – and even now it continues. When it is being what it is supposed to be, the local church is a beautiful work of God.
In any case, the folks across the hall were in the same chemo boat and Herb’s wonderful wife overheard our discussion. Lesetta, is an off-the-charts wonderful, witty, human being who has never met a stranger. Suffering from Parkinson’s disease, she got up to her walker and meandered across the hall to the mouth of our room. “I’m nosey and I couldn’t help but overhear your discussion.” We got a good laugh out of that one. There would be many more over the next twenty-two months. She introduced herself and asked if Gail was a preacher’s wife. Gail confirmed and introduced me and our daughters and sisters. She said, “I know you! I’ve been praying for you.” She and Herb owned a gift shop and many of our church members shopped there. She’d heard how this pastor’s wife had pancreatic cancer and made the connection to Gail. On that day, a wonderful friendship blossomed. She also knew all about the cancer walk and filled us in on the information.
Before long, we were introduced to Herb. Herb had an infectious smile and a great sense of humor. Every chemo Friday, he wore a Hawaiian shirt to chemotherapy. Throughout the day his mission was to bring a bit of joy to cancer patients, especially newbies. He warmed up to Gail immediately. He was one of those people who had a gift of encouragement and he was willing to use it. Over time, we began to communicate with these angels of mercy and we also met Barry and Glenda, another pancreatic cancer patient and his wife. Gail, Herb and Barry became the Three Amigos. We visited Herb’s famous firepit in the back yard and had lunch on more than one occasion with both couples. We prayed for one another and lifted one another up. There are two experiences that can make the closest of friendships form and grow – serving people who are less fortunate than yourself, and, personal tragedy. These three experienced both and formed a very close bond.
Both couples attended Vibrant on several occasions and both supported Gail’s Girls faithfully. Gail loved Herb, Lesetta, Barry and Glenda. Well, there were three, then there were two, now there is one. Carry on Barry. You have big shoes to fill and I am confident you will fill them well.
Thank you, God, for Herb. I’m sure he’s wearing his Hawaiian shirt and still enjoying his now healed cancer body. I suppose you no longer need encouragement in heaven. God provides everything you need and guards you from the evil Satan is still allowed to purvey on this planet. But that does not mean encouragement does not happen from heaven. Along with a host of others who have gone before, Gail and Herb rain down encouragement upon those of us left to continue our earthly journey, and just perhaps, they still search for “newbies,” and ever so silently provide the courage of God to them without them even knowing it. Scripture says that the saints who have gone before us cheer us on. I can faintly hear my wife’s resolute voice and Herb’s, sense of humor, telling Lesetta and I to get on with it. Nothing stops the beauty of God from shining. Not even pancreatic cancer. We will miss you Herb, but I’m glad you’re there to keep Gail company. Give her my love please. Thank you Lesetta for sharing Herb with us.
(Herb, Gail & Barry)