Joe has been determined to have his faith never waiver. At a joint Family Home Evening a month ago, he told a story about a woman with cancer repeating everyday, many times a day, “Thank you for my healing.” He added, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
His wife, Lynda, sentenced to death by cancer, sat smiling in a hard-back chair. She joked some, and their children discussed what the scripture meant.
Two weeks ago, my husband (Lynda’s brother) called her to see how things were going. She had just undergone some tests. The liver test held the most ominous possibilities. Lynda’s voice didn’t break until she talked about that one. “I’m really afraid of those results,” she said.
We had a mini family reunion a week ago at the Golden Corral, that homey palace of gluttony. Lynda’s saliva glands had been ruined by her medication, so she ate very little. She looked frail, and one eye drooped.
We talked about everything except cancer. Did you try the shrimp cocktail? Really good. Man, they give you a lot of food in this place. How’s school? Are you about ready for summer vacation?
We gave mini hugs at the end, and I started crying as we left the restaurant. “She looks so bad,” I said.
Lynda, the fun-loving sprite who bought huge, Halloween ears to her son’s baptism to remind him to “Listen to the spirit!” went seven years cancer free, and then met it again. It invaded her marrow.
The tests came back a few days ago. Yes, the cancer had hit her liver. And her lungs and her optic nerve.
As Elder Bednar spoke yesterday about faith and healing, I found myself saying aloud during his first story of a mother and her suddenly-ill son, “Please don’t tell us about a miraculous healing right now!” The story did indeed end with a healing, but then he moved on to another story, which began similarly and did NOT end with a healing, but with death. Elder Bednar suggested that we pray for understanding as we face our afflictions.
After conference, we went to visit Joe and Lynda, with Bruce’s parents. Lynda’s decline was starkly apparent. She couldn’t say much. She wasn’t wearing her wig, her skin was sallow, and she didn’t have any strength to smile. Again, we talked about everything but cancer. Elder Christofferson seems like a good man, doesn’t he. How’s your single’s ward, Stephen? We went to Bombay House for dinner after the Priesthood Session.
I did ask Joe if Lynda was able to sleep. He said she wasn’t. She kept waking up to vomit, but only blood came up. Her rest was always fitful. He turned to Bruce. “I have to do some things now which I don’t want to do. Pick out a coffin.”
At the end of the visit, my mother-in-law approached her daughter. “I didn’t give you a hug last time,” my mother-in-law said. “I don’t know why I didn’t. I was just lazy. Too comfortable in my chair.” She stroked Lynda’s hands, and embraced her. Lynda was too weak to return the embrace.
A few minutes ago, my husband called to tell me Lynda had died. I knew as soon as I saw his name identified on the phone what he was calling to tell me. I said hello and simply waited for the words to come. It took him a moment.
What, then, are we to understand? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Death unites us in common grief. We are more able to forgive as we realize how fragile life is. Why would we hold on to resentments? Why give or take offense?
2. Time runs out for all of us. There is a time to embrace and a time when an embrace is impossible. Embrace.
3. Faith must bridge the gulf between this life and the next. Will we always be aware of the emptiness someone’s absence has left? I think so, though it does get better.
Lynda Young Tuckett was a lover of life. She had the gift of joy. When I told her once that I was amazed by her ability to deal with the cruelty of cancer, she said simply and with a shrug, “Well, what are you going to do?”
She fell in love young and married young—but married well. I will never fault her husband for urging her to believe in healing. He clearly adored her.
What will this day be for her children? This day marks a transition in their faith and their lives. From now on, April 7th will always be the day their mother died. I hope they take time to look at earlier photos of her, and to remember her smile. I have always believed that when a young mother is taken, she is also given privileges to affect her children’s lives. I hope that is true. (Her children are ages 27, 21, and 16.)
Today, April 7th, 2008, Lynda Young Tuckett died at age 45. I close this with part of a poem by Phillip White, whose wife (another dear friend) died young.
“And as the earth fell, my heart finally failed
And I cast my eye around wildly, wanting to take
Each thing in, not knowing what part would be lost
That I might struggle into this life again.”