There is nothing harder than losing a loved one. Only God can give you the strength, peace, and comfort necessary to handle the unbearable sadness and suffering you feel. I experienced this myself 11 years ago when I sat next to my dad’s hospice bed in his final days at home. In just 3 weeks time, my dad was hospitalized, diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (as a nonsmoker), brought home with hospice care, and then passed away. It was a complete shock to me and my family. As my mom said at the time, it was a nightmare.
My dad and I were alone in his room on this Saturday, June 11th when he said to me, “I am ready to go, Lisa.” He passed away 4 days later on June 15, 2011. By that time, I had learned to cling to God. Not lean on, cling. And in the month that followed, my Faith was renewed, as I experienced incredible strength, peace, and comfort despite incredible pain. All By The Grace Of God 🙏🏻
This is one of my favorite photos of my parents. They were visiting me at my home in San Diego, California in 1998. I was working on my Ph.D. and hadn’t yet decided which state I would seek licensure as a Psychologist.
After completing my postdoctoral internship in 2001, I decided to move back to the Midwest. I proceeded to get my Psychologist License in Wisconsin.
My parents were still able to enjoy the San Diego house during the winter months after my dad retired full-time in 2002. They were very happy to get a break from Northern Illinois winters.
In this photo, they are sitting on my back patio, which could not look more different than my current back patio here in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Many of us struggle with loss during the holidays, especially now during the pandemic. This is notably true when it’s a parent that has passed on. This is my husband and his mother, Ann Clark, who died on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. My own father, Edward Kercher, died in 2011, a few days before Father’s Day. It doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, as much as you wish it did.
My mom, Ulla Kercher, is an amazing woman. At 88 years old, she just moved to a small home in a senior living community in my hometown, Rockford, IL. She has been a widow for 10+ years and had maintained two houses after my dad passed away, one in Rockford and one in San Diego, CA. My dad would be so proud of her and delighted that she is doing well with an abundance of support from family and friends.
I was with my dad when he had hospice care at home in 2011. One special moment I will never forget … my dad was lying in the hospital bed, with my mom and I by his side. He had been failing quickly since his terminal cancer diagnosis the week prior. Suddenly, he spoke softly, saying to my mom, “There are no words to describe how much I love you.” He passed away a few days later. They had just celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary three weeks prior.
My crisis started the first week of August in 2016. Within a few days’ time, I lost function in my left hand and forearm. Just like that. No warning. Boom. All the things I took for granted and did on a daily basis, I could no longer do. I couldn’t type, hold a plate, wash my hair, tie my shoes, open a jar, hold the steering wheel. It was terrifying. The medical appointments and MRIs that followed were equally terrifying. By the end of the month, I had a diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis.
I spent the month of August in constant prayer, seeking God for strength and courage. I can honestly tell you that by the time I received the diagnosis, I accepted it gracefully. Was I extremely sad and scared? Absolutely. But I accepted the results because I knew by Faith that nothing just happens. That this was God’s will for my life.
Since that time, I have regained 100% function in my left hand and forearm. I still have the tingling sensation, but that is a minor inconvenience. The first gift I received from this crisis is that I no longer take my body for granted. Typing this post right now with both hands is such a blessing to me. Given there is no cure for MS and that it is a progressive disease, there is no telling what parts of my body will be affected and when.
Which brings me to the second gift of this crisis. If you do research on MS you quickly find out that it’s all a big mystery. They don’t know what causes it, they don’t know exactly why the medications help, and everyone experiences the disease differently. So basically, you are forced to accept the fact (that we humans try so hard to ignore) that life is unpredictable. You are forced to take life one day at a time, to pace yourself, to set priorities, and be adaptive. And this has brought great clarity and focus to my life.
The third gift of this crisis is that it strengthened my relationships with my husband, family, and friends. I found out on a much deeper level how much people loved me, valued me, and cared about me. I tend to be the strong one in a group, always taking care of others. It was very healing for me to be vulnerable and allow others to take care of me. I was surprised by people’s compassion and experienced incredibly sweet moments with my loved ones.
The last and most important gift of this crisis is that it has brought me closer to God. I know with 100% certainty that I could not live with Multiple Sclerosis without Him in my life. He gives me the strength, peace, joy, and courage I need to move forward in my life. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I leave you with a Bible verse that has been on my desk since the day of my diagnosis. “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear. I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13