She was the wife of a preacher and became friends with Skip during chemotherapy visits. While they did not share the same doctors, they shared the same grief, sorrows, and occasional joy. She was a light-toned, young black woman in her late twenties or early thirties with short black hair and was suffering from a very malignant form of breast cancer. The only upside was that it didn’t seem to affect her hair. She and her husband were only married a few years and, like Skip, were just celebrating the arrival of a new baby to their family. God seemed to be working his way into Skip’s life from all avenues as time went on. What were the odds of Skip’s taking chemo in a room next to a young pastor’s wife? Her husband was soft-spoken, with a mild demeanor that had a calming effect on Skip. He visited his wife every day, so Skip looked forward to the opportunity to talk with him. The pastor brought an aura of hope to a part of the hospital that was generally hopeless. He encouraged Skip to be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God, quoting Deuteronomy he would say, will never leave you nor forsake you. Skip took extreme comfort in his words and wisdom, which helped alleviate the worry and anxiety.
Skip’s visits with the pastor were brief, so Skip spent much of his time on good days speaking with the pastor’s wife. While Skip held on to considerable doubt and worry about his healing, she was never concerned about death or dying and would always quote a verse of scripture that gave her strength and encouragement. God was going to heal her, she would say every time she and Skip spoke. They would always pray together, for one another. Both were young with growing families and had so much to live for. Surely God could see this and make their lives better, in order to enjoy the gifts, including childbirth, that they were given.
Breast cancer comes in many shapes and sizes, ranging on the scale of relatively benign to that of advanced malignancy. The pastor’s wife had a very aggressive stage IV type of breast cancer that was tough to fight. Pursuant to a double mastectomy, she was on the most advanced chemotherapy protocol in an attempt to capture and kill any remaining cancerous cells. Her appearance began to diminish, with her countenance deteriorating each time they met. Skip could tell that she was growing weaker, and taking a turn for the worst. In the meantime, they kept praying for a cure.
It was the end of what would normally be a business day, and Ashley and the kids visited Skip at the hospital this particular evening. Skip’s week-long stint was just beginning, so he needed all the love and encouragement that could be mustered for him. Ashley brought the day’s paper and a few magazines that might interest Skip during his down time. Foster was getting bigger every day, and Caroline would always make Daddy a card or some such trinket and bring it with her to the hospital to make Skip feel better. She looked adorable as she was still in her little school uniform during visits. Foster crawled around the floor of the room, but even though it was a hospital, something told Ashley the floors were not as clean as they were at home. Ashley would usually try to get Skip something to eat that he was craving on her way to the hospital. This particular night it was a barbeque plate from Momma Blacks, a local Charleston BBQ joint. It hit the spot. Skip left the hospital food tray of fish and rice untouched; it was taken back to the cafeteria by an elderly black woman. She asked Skip if he wasn’t hungry, and he told her that dinner was brought in from the outside world tonight. She laughed and gave him a big smile and went on with the rest of her rounds.
Skip never felt much like reading, although he was an avid reader. While doing the chemo, between the nausea and fatigue, he had little desire to read. On this evening, he felt compelled for some reason to pick up the newspaper and thumb through it. When he got to the State and Local section, he froze and dropped the paper. Stunned, he picked up the paper and began again to read the headline about a pastor’s wife who had just died of breast cancer. There was no mistaking the picture of the grieving preacher. It was his friend. The article went on to chronicle his ministry and her cancer and the family left behind. Skip read the article several times and then took a walk down the hall where her room used to be. He stood there in silent prayer remembering the pastor’s wife. She was such a believer in Jesus and knew that she would be healed. Skip realized just then that when she spoke of being healed, this was metaphoric for being saved for eternity. Skip was still too young in his walk to understand completely. All he knew was that she was a preacher’s wife with a direct pipeline to God. If God took her, what chance did Skip really have? Confusion reigned and emotions surfaced. Skip fell to the ground and had to be carried back to his bed by the nursing staff. He was mildly sedated and dozed in and out of a restless sleep.