One particular day

I suppose most people can remember one particular day when something happened that caused a major life change. That day for me was five years ago today—July 8, 2011. My friend Jim had a seizure while sitting at his desk, hit his head when he fell, and was unconscious when found several hours later. A CT scan at the hospital, checking for a concussion, instead found cancer in three lobes of his brain; and not just any cancer, but a very, very aggressive, non-curable cancer. I knew nothing would ever be the same.

Jim had always believed that our life experiences brought lessons—and really difficult experiences brought really important lessons. During his cancer journey, he continually asked God, “What is the invitation in this?” and “What am I meant to learn from this?” His lessons ranged from letting go of important parts of his identify to allowing himself to be physically cared for to deepening his belief that he was in God’s hands. Jim became much more trusting while he was sick (although I think he maintained a certain level of skepticism when it was time for the daily injections I had to give him).

Every day we laughed and every day we were grateful. Even on bad days, when everything that could go wrong did—like the day Jim needed emergency surgery just three days after being released from the hospital or when he developed a blood clot the day before we were going to the ocean—even on those days, we found humor and gratitude.

In the face of a non-curable, aggressive cancer, it was actually fairly easy for me to admit I had no control. If a neurosurgeon, radiologist and oncologist could not get rid of the brain cancer, what could I do? Instead, I asked God, “What is the invitation in this for me?”

And God responded, “This is what you are to do: you are to love Jim unconditionally, forgive him without limit, and let him go.” They were words from a prayer I had prayed every day for ten years, and God was pointing out to me that this was my chance to practice what I had been praying —every day for almost nine months. I wanted to be more loving and forgiving and less controlling and here was a great opportunity.

While he was sick, we talked about my moving back to Michigan to be near my family, and when my sisters came to visit, he gave me to them. Two days later, he died a very peaceful death, at home with his dog by his side.

On that day of Jim’s diagnosis five years ago, I could not know the difficulties, heartbreak and sorrow that was to come. Nor could I know the gifts, joys and blessings.

When I look back at July 8, 2011, and everything that has happened since, I am both amazed and deeply grateful. Life has changed, and it is good.



12 thoughts on “One particular day

  1. Deb

    You are the strongest woman I know both spiritually and mentally. Thank you for sharing this piece of you and thank you for reminding me that this is what is calling me to do, to be able to love and forgive unconditionally. What a tall order!

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Deb, The invitation is to love, forgive and let go–the actual doing of those has been (and continues to be) fairly difficult for me. Just this morning I was reflecting on another way I am being resistant. “Let go,” I hear God saying to me. I pray for the grace.

  2. annemarielom

    It seems gratitude trumps everything.. that I do believe. Thank you for sharing this, Madeline!

  3. Georgia Kingsley

    The Lake House is so blessed your journey has made a stop in St Clair Shores. You are a remarkable woman and happy I’ve met you.

  4. Widow's Manna

    Oh my this is so beautiful…. I am so glad that you could see some goodness in the midst of the hard place. How beautiful that you could walk beside your friend. I love the line in your blog, “What is your invitation in this?” I needed to hear this truly. Those of us to who have the privilege of walking beside one whose battling this kind of disease, see things and are touched by things no one could ever understand. The part of them that is crossing over into heaven, touches those who are close to their sides. Thank you for being so brave to sharing this. It blessed me.

    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks for your comments. The last three months of Jim’s life, when he knew death was nearing, he often talked about “crossing over” and his faith really helped me to see the thin line between this side and the other. He felt his father’s presence with him, guiding him as he prepared to cross over, and he had a strong sense that his dad and brother and a good friend who had died a few years earlier were all waiting for him. The tenderness of those conversations and those final days still bring a smile and a sense of deep peace.

  5. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Being with Jim from his diagnosis day and then being with Ted through his cancer journey has given me a different perspective on the significance of the diagnosis. I’m sure you understand Judy.

  6. Jane Banik

    I always admire your ability to see yourself in this whole process and being able to see your path along the way. I seemed to be reactive to Joe ‘s dying and not able to find my way until it is too late. I then looked back wishing that I had really appreciated the moments as they happened with more clarity. I was really blessed!

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    I think we often see our blessings in the rear view mirror, Jane. It can be difficult to see God acting when we are in the middle of a difficult situation but looking back, we can see we were being held and carried.


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