Friday, February 10, 2012
I arrived at Mara’s (that’s MAH-rah) quaint home, and the first thing I couldn’t help but notice was the trellised fence with an arched gate absolutely covered in ivy. It was a little piece of old-world brought right to her backyard.
I don’t really know where to start with Mara’s story. Though quiet, and sweet, she had a stoicism about her. I imagined it came from migrating to America from Hungary at the age of 12, and having to learn a new language as she came of age in a foreign culture, and that her years as a mother of three and wife taught her how to be strong for others.
“She has a maturity and a sweet spirit about her,” Sheri, her neighbor and caretaker, said.
Seeing Mara, who is only 53 years old, was a reminder of what cancer can and cannot take away. She spoke about how much she missed working with computers at Baptist Hospital and taking care of her two dogs and two cats. She reminisced about skiing in Austria and visiting her homeland. Her eyes lit up when she spoke of her husband and how she liked when he was home from work and would sit by her side. About her house hung beautiful quilts stitched by Mara herself. “That one has my daughter Abigail’s handprints stitched into it,” Mara said. As I sat and listened to her speak I could hear the love of a mother's heart pouring out.
Yet Mara spends the day very tired, working with physical therapy and battling her glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. Currently on chemotherapy, Mara experiences the weakness and the fatigue of fighting with extraordinary strength. Though radiation did not work, Mara shared the greatest advice a cancer patient can be given: “Don’t worry about the numbers, focus on recovery. Averages don’t matter.” We always said that God has His own timeline. I think Mara might agree.
In just the short time I spent with Mara, I could tell she was loved. Her boss from Baptist Hospital stopped by to say hello and pick up a stove. Sheri, who put me in contact with Mara, came upon the opportunity to spend time and help take care of Mara after losing her job. I saw so many faces affected by cancer, so many lives that Mara’s journey was influencing.
“Are you afraid of dying?” I ask her.
“Is that because you know that you will spend that eternity in heaven?”
“It’s hard, because you can’t be sure where you will go.”
I knew in my heart the answer to that uncertainty, and those of us in the room began to talk about our faith and how the Lord brought us through our journey. We ministered by testimony, and Mara seemed to understand that we had found joy.
A little while later, we asked her what brought her comfort in her frustration. She said she liked to think about what heaven might be like, imagining her grandfather’s old house and garden with all of her cousins there. It was a sweet vision, sweet like Mara.
I thought Sheri’s words as we began to leave were poignant for any battle in life: “He’s weaving a beautiful tapestry that we can’t see yet through the tears of our broken heart.” It was a perfect way to phrase Mara’s story.
We closed in prayer, and I truly could feel the warmth and peace of the Lord in her home. I hoped she could begin to feel it too, and accept the gift of the eternity that was nearing. I received a text the evening after we met, and Mara had asked for a book about Jesus. I pray that Mara receives that gift offered to her so that, after all her suffering, she might get to spend time in that old house and garden with her King.
Since visiting Mara over two weeks ago she has taken a turn for the worse. She spent a few short days in hospice and is now at home where she will be able to rest peacefully, surrounded by her family.
Yet, my heart is overjoyed that this story isn't quite finished. This morning Mara's friend Sheri prayed a prayer of salvation with her, and now Mara can be sure where she will spend eternity.
It has been a privilege for me to get a little glimpse into the life of this sweet, courageous woman.