A lament for Heidi


After a long 24 hour bedside vigil, I was finally able to come home, change my clothes and shower. But it’s not over. I’ll go back to her bedside shortly, and breathe in her precious smell until she smells like heaven.

I know how this goes. My youngest sister will be the fourth beloved, precious family member we will lose in just over a year.

Oh, Lord, I just don’t understand. What is going on here???

Last year, on Christmas morning no less, we first learned Heidi had a brain tumor. Later that same week we were informed it was glioblastoma – the fastest growing, most deadly and ruthless form of brain cancer with an average prognosis of 12 – 14 months Screaming into Nothingness (when God disappears). Here we are, in month 13 and she is days (maybe hours?) away from dying. Heidi is anything but average, but in death, her numbers will align fairly well with the statistics.

She will leave behind a husband, Chad, who has been her best friend since forever. They were married 23 years. Chad and Heidi have two children – Ashley, 17, a high school senior, and Nate, 14, an eighth grader. Don’t tell me they’ll be okay. They won’t – at least not yet. Their momma is about to die.

Oh, Lord, I just don’t understand.

It’s NOT okay to lose your momma when you’re a teenager. I have analyzed this situation from every angle and I can find nothing that makes sense or eases the pain. And I think I could punch someone in the face right now who tries to tell any of us how God works all things together for the good.

There is no way this can be good. No way.

Unless, perhaps…. Unless I don’t understand what “good” really is….

As a family we have all wrestled with mortality and God and His plan throughout Heidi’s illness. But one night, while in a long nighttime wrestling match with God, I suddenly wondered if His idea of good is simply not the same as ours. Maybe He doesn’t have a Webster’s. Maybe when He Google’s “good”, He doesn’t read of the things we typically think of (health, wealth, prosperity, fitting into your size 6 jeans, sipping wine along the Cour Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence, France…)

If God is good, and I have NO DOUBT He is, then His definition of good CANNOT be the same as ours.

Because, Oh, Lord, I just don’t understand you otherwise.

It’s interesting, but in my experience, the things that we typically think of as “good” and as our “blessings” are often the things that create a separation between God and us. They are things that, often unintentionally and often subversively, lead us to believe we don’t need a God. Things like enough money (or too much), enough food (or too much), enough vacation (or too much), enough or too much of everything, as well as the absence of disease and absence of trials.

Conversely, it is the sufferings of this life that bring us to our knees and to the place where we find our desperate need of a Savior.  And I believe that more than anything God longs to draw us closer to Him. He wants nothing more for all to come to know him and accept the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior.

So what if maybe, just MAYBE…., in God’s dictionary, “health” is not the absence of disease, but, instead, one who knows he/she is nothing apart from Christ, and that we live and breathe and have our being in Him alone.  Since God IS good, and longs to give us good things, MAYBE, “health” has nothing to do with our physical bodies.

Maybe, in God’s dictionary, “wealthy” does not refer to one who has a hefty savings and retirement account, drives a fancy car, and owns all manner of material possessions. Maybe being wealthy actually means to understand that friends, family and a purpose in life are some of the richest gifts offered to us. Maybe we’re rich when we realize how little we actually need “things” and start living more simply – when we have more time for people instead of accumulating and maintaining our “things”. Maybe wealth is the opposite of what we always thought.

Maybe, in God’s dictionary, a “blessing” isn’t a concept we can actually get our heads around. Maybe, saying we’re “blessed” when referring to health, wealth, jobs, children and good fortune causes great pain to those struggling with cancer, infertility, unemployment, a prodigal son/daughter, rape, poverty, oppression, rejection, loneliness, etc. because it implies God has withheld His blessings from those people.  ESPECIALLY – oh especially – when we Christians suggest it is the LACK of faith that produces suffering in this life are we guilty of serious theological malpractice!

Are suffering people NOT blessed???  Are we able to escape all trouble and heartache if our faith is simply strong enough??? When people suffer from the evils in this world is it a reflection of their lack of faith???

Hell no.

It just can’t be. Or God is not good. God must have a different definition of “blessed” then we do.

Otherwise, God, I just don’t understand.

So, I decided to start reading God’s dictionary. I cannot make sense of Heidi’s passing any other way. I need a God who IS GOOD. One whom I can trust even when I’m angry at Him. One who IS PRESENT everywhere. One who doesn’t pick and choose favorites and grant the rich, the beautiful, and those born into first-world countries more “blessings” than the rest.

This is what I found in God’s dictionary:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn – for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek – for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful – for they shall be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart – for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers – for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3 – 10

So as I resume this bedside vigil there are TWO things I can know for sure: Chad and family will be comforted. And Heidi, well, she shall soon see God, for she is truly pure in heart.

This precious family does not have the “blessings” that most people think of – they are in the valley of the shadow of death and this is an impossibly sad and difficult place. But, I’ve just GOT to believe that according to God’s dictionary, they are blessed indeed.

Otherwise, Lord, I just don’t understand. You just don’t make any sense to me.

And then the Lord said to me:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5


87 thoughts on “A lament for Heidi

  1. I am so touched by how you have honored Heidi and God at the same time, despite the circumstances. I’ve been struggling with the same questions as my husband battles stage IV cancer. I just finished reading Philip Yancey’s book “Search for the Invisible God.” Your thoughts reinforce much of what he presents. I am preparing for that day when I will need to draw more than ever on my faith and I thank you for your post which will be an inspiration during those tough times.

    1. My heartfelt prayers go out to you, Lisa. Cancer is so wicked. I pray all the time for all the little kids in elementary school, and those in middle school and high school, who are smart and scientific and explorers and dreamers – praying that one of them will use their brilliance to someday find a cure for ALL cancers!!! Once in a while I feel inspired to write a little something about what God is teaching me. Apparently, this blog resonated with a few others. But you can do no better than to be reading Yancey! I love that guy. I thought I read all his books, but I have not read “Search for the Invisible God” – and now I will! Thank you for the recommendation! And I will pray for you – and all the others who have shared their cancer story on this thread – that the Lord Your God will bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you – both in joy and sorrow, good times and bad. He is unchanging and ever-present – so cling to that when everything else is changing and leaving. Peace.

  2. I lost my husband , Chuck (70)to a glio the same day as Heidi. We discovered on January 22, 2017 that he had a mass, and the labs came back Identifying a glioblastoma the first week of February. His sister died of the same tumor 20 years ago at age 44 leaving children (6, 13, 15) . The doctors assured us that a lot of progress had been made over the last 20 years, but we have been left with the experience of, not really.
    We have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren and love the Lord. My husband served the Lord in full time ministry for 43 years always teaching prayer, healing, and the abundant life the Lord came to give us. There is an etching of a laughing Jesus that chuck wanted to have in sight … chuck said that Jesus was saying “I came to give you life, and that more abundant “.
    Now we are left to try to understand…..I loved Cindy’s comments about Heidi and about “all things work together for the good” . We had that text in Chuck’s funeral order of service as we thanked our parish for the unbelievable care we received. The good being the body of Christ at work in our church as they witnessed to us and the community!
    A horrible disease from the pit of hell that has an evil way to thrive and reconstitute itself.
    Lots of questions as our family moves through this grief. One of Chuck’s “sayings” about life’s ups and downs was “it is not that we get through it, it is How we get through it”…. meaning the fruit we bear in our lives and our witness to the world as we go
    through the hard times. So here we are, Lord, help us through this horrible grief. We know you gave up your only son to die an agonizing death for us….you know our grief well.
    Margaret Murphy

    1. Oh my goodness, Margaret! Your story is incredible – painfully incredible! I can’t believe two siblings would have to suffer through the evils of glioblastoma! And on the same day as Heidi! It is so strange and in a weird way kind of comforting to know that other believing families were going through the exact same thing as us at the exact same time. We are never alone, are we? You’re right – this disease is from the pit of hell and the havoc it wreaks on a family and community are almost insurmountable. I say “almost” – because, of course, In Christ we are more than conquerors! We are overcomers! With a little over a week since her passing, to be honest, none of us feel very “conquering” or “overcoming” yet ….. most days it feels like the pain is getting the best of us. Do you have days like that, too? You and Chuck must have had many, many beautiful years together as a married couple. I cannot imagine how each new day now feels to you. But we hold on to the faith and to Christ’s promises. Like you said, “So, here we are, Lord. Help us through this horrible grief.” And we have that wonderful assurance that He will. He will indeed!!! Blessings and prayers for you and your family, Margaret.

      1. Today was a very hard day. I have saved many scripture promises to my phone over this last year as we dealt with his glioblastoma, and today I went through my phone and deleted them. I do feel abandoned by the Lord. chuck always preached “ask, seek, knock, and expect the Lord to do mighty things”…chuck taught faith , trust, and obedience.. always. … I got a silent Jesus.
        For now, I feel sad. I pray this phase is grief and pray for His light to brighten my darkness. chuck’s obituary is on http://www.goldfinchfuneral Home.com… Murrells Inlet, SC.
        Charles h murphy lll… there is an article on him in Christianity today. A wonderful Christian soldier who was “done too soon”

  3. Thank you for sharing this. Very powerful, moving and encouraging. GOD is in charge and never, ever does anything to forsake us or cause anything to occur that He doesn’t give us a way to deal with that honors Him and gives us an understanding of His purposes in ALL things. I am so moved with your post and your developing understanding. Simply put, I believe that when we follow His scriptures and stay out of His way as he causes His perfect plan to unfold we will “get out of His way” and see how Perfect it all is. In another forum I am willing to share with you what he required of me, what I did to meet that requirement and what he did in my life when my son died. He is AMAZING. Prayers of HIS peace for you, your sister, your family and those reading your heart and spirit spoken words!

    1. Hello David – thank-you for your insightful thoughts. Heidi passed away last week and now we are all in the grips of “reality shock”. Yet – I totally agree with your words that we just need to get out of God’s way and let His plan unfold. I have trouble with that, honestly. Especially when I don’t like God’s plan. But, miraculously, we are all experiencing his gift of peace and undeserved grace. Also, my sympathy to you in the loss of a son. I can’t imagine. I’d love to hear more of the story. Perhaps send a PM via Facebook? Another one of the great gifts God has given us is each other – so we don’t have to figure out this life all on our own and experience our suffering in a vacuum. We were meant to live in community! Thanks, again, for sharing.

  4. I am so sorry for what all of you have been thru. The way you worded this Cindy is so loving and caring. Really different than anything I have read. About the good in things that happen and that maybe Good is different to God than us. Thru dad times we have been thru I couldn’t see how that can be good. I asked God Why. He didn’t tell me why. But don’t we ask ask that. To us it don’t make sense to see our loved ones suffer. How can we. But it takes on new meaning the way you worded this. Thank You. Prayers and love for you and for all who posted.

  5. Dear Cindy, and family, my heart breaks for you. I lost my precious sister Janice almost 30 years ago. She left behind 3 little girls, her husband, her mom and dad, 3 sisters, and many other family members, and friends. I, like you questioned God. I could not understand how a Loving God could allow this to happen. One night when I was praying, and questioning God as to “why ” He didn’t leave her here ,with the ones who needed her so much ?Well,it’s at that time that God answered my question, He told me as much as you loved and needed her, I loved, and needed her more. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May God give you peace that surpasses all understanding. God Bless.

  6. Thank you. We read your post in small group tonight. It resonated truth in a profound way. Thank you for your transparency. We prayed for your family tonight. May his comfort be precious and tangible.

  7. I’m so sorry you’re having to say goodbye to your dear sister. Having lost my son to brain cancer, I understand that you can’t hear the comments from other people who do their best to comfort. It’s hard to forget words that I, myself have used in past years-for lack of knowing what to say. God go with all of you while you sit this vigil. And may He ease her gently on. (“until she smells like heaven” Such tender words)

  8. Wow, such are fresh and enlightening message, (so sorry, for your fourth loss) about what God’s dictionary looks like. Really, so true. I wonder if many Christians will not recognise “God’s Dictionary” when they peruse his library in heaven.

  9. Dear Cindy, I read your blog several weeks ago and have been thinking about it ever since. You pointed out some thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount, what is good and what is a blessing. Some of this is new insight to me, or maybe it is just the way you phrased it. I have been blessed. I am so sorry that you lost your dear sister and I am thankful that you can share such important scriptural thoughts with us. Well, over the weeks I also have been wondering if you ever heard Rachel Barkey, from Canada give a talk to a group of women about her imminent death from cancer? It is truly phenomenal in that I think it borders on supernatural as the Lord used her mightly. I highly recommend listening and watching her video which you can find at this link. Let me know what you think of this. There is also a facebook group about her and people comment about their loved ones who have died of cancer. The first link is the video and the second link is the facebook page (if you are on fb)
    http://deathisnotdying.com/fullvideo/ and fb group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/95413198833/

    1. Thanks so much, Krista! I had not heard of Rachel Barkey – but was blown away by her video! Thanks for sharing! I agree – there is a supernatural presence when someone can take what the world calls a tragedy, and truly call it a gift from God. Blessings are what we “take away” from all that happens to us in life. It’s not the ACTUAL happening itself. What a testimony to be able to look past the thing that seems “insurmountable” and see Jesus – who’s telling us over and over and over: “Mount UP! You got this!” I’m learning, learning, learning, as we walk through this grieving process of Heidi’s passing. Thanks again, Krista! Peace to you!

  10. After I lost my Dad several years ago I really struggled with ‘#blessed’. Thank you so much for your post. I now understand that God’s blessings are eternal blessings, and all the other good things he gives us are just tools to use for His Kingdom!!!

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