With the whirlwind of activity in the past few days, I’ve not been able to answer many emails or write blog posts. Today is the first day things have slowed down enough for me to take a few minutes to write.
First, let me say how grateful I am for the prayers and words of encouragement we’ve received during these difficult days of trial. It is a blessing to know there are people on both sides of the Atlantic praying for us.
One thing I have learned is this: people in difficult circumstances need prayer for wisdom as much as prayer for anything else. When a loved one enters the final stages of a prolonged illness, the family is confronted with a host of decisions related to treatment, travel, and other arrangements. The need for wisdom and discernment in making plans is vitally important.
From this point on, when I pray for others who are going through difficult times, I will make sure to pray for wisdom as much as I pray for the usual things (peace, joy, etc.).
Cancer and the Steady Decline
Corina’s father, Florin Trifan (read about his testimony here), had an operation three years ago to remove a tumor that had appeared on his larynx. After the operation, the analysis showed the tumor to be malignant. As he began receiving treatment for the cancer, Corina and our daughter, Julia, spent several weeks with him in the spring of 2010.
Though the treatment was difficult and the trial was painful, my father-in-law beat cancer that year. He received a good report at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. By the end of 2011, he was beginning to regain his strength to the point he considered making a trip to the States to visit our family.
In early 2012, the cancer came back. The doctors were convinced they’d caught it early, and we hoped this would only be a temporary setback. Instead, my father-in-law’s health declined during 2012. Every day, when we talked with him on Skype, we could see how the treatment was affecting him. He was losing weight and strength as each month passed.
In September, the treatments for his cancer were complete. But my father-in-law’s health did not improve. In early November, he attended his last church service, and from that point on, he was homebound.
Making Tough Decisions
During the time of my father-in-law’s illness, Corina and I were never sure what was the best course of action. It was difficult to be so far away from family during a difficult trial. Her family discouraged her from coming, worried that if she were to visit, her father would not deal well with her parting to go back home (which is understandable, considering the fragility of his health).
By December, the situation had worsened to the point we wondered if we would be able to spend time with him before he died. Not knowing what to do, we made provisional plans and mapped out possible scenarios.
- If the family gives us the green light, should Corina and I go with the kids?
- Should Corina go by herself?
- Should the two of us go together and leave the kids at home, and then bring them later to the funeral?
The difficulty in making these decisions was magnified by a troubled pregnancy. Corina and I had a miscarriage last year. This new pregnancy also showed signs of trouble during the early months. The doctors did not recommend or forbid overseas travel, but this was certainly a factor in our decision-making.
Feeling Our Way Through
For a time, our plan was to go to Romania as a family for my father-in-law’s funeral. This plan quickly changed, however, when – on Thursday, January 24th – Corina’s mom said, “The situation is worse. If you want to come, please come.”
That was all I needed to hear to spring into action. I bought a ticket for Corina to fly out from Nashville the next day to Romania. She would arrive within 48 hours. I selected a return date of Tuesday, February 5, not knowing whether or not this would be enough time.
Our plan at this point was for Corina to be with her father in his last days, and then for me to fly to Romania with the kids once he passed. We thought it would bring joy to her family for our kids to be present.
That plan changed too.
By Tuesday morning, as I was talking to Corina, I sensed the worsening of the situation and felt deep down that I needed to be with her, even if it meant leaving the kids at home. Though the kids weren’t very happy about the change of plans, I bought the fastest ticket to Romania I could find. I left within five hours.
I’ll give a few more details about my father-in-law’s passing in a later post. For now, all I can say is that the most important need we had during this time was wisdom. As you will see in the later posts about what took place, we made the right call. Had we not taken action and been willing to change plans quickly, things would have turned out differently.
We also realized that the idea of bringing the kids, while well-intentioned, was not realistic. Again, God’s wisdom prevailed.
Being present at the passing of my father-in-law is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced. More on that later…