Two months ago, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to my husband yelling for me. He was standing over our sink coughing up blood. He had coughed up blood a few years ago and had a lesion on his lungs, but it healed. We thought it was some kind of fluke.
It wasn’t. It was the first sign of a mysterious disease. Over the last two months, doctors have ruled out every normal possibility from tuberculosis to bronchitis to fungal infections. He’s been negative on every single test.
Yet more cavitary lesions (holes, for lack of a better word) continue to form in his lungs. We are now faced with a series of intense tests to definitively see if my husband has a very rare disease known as pulmonary vasculitis. He will have an open lung biopsy performed by a thoracic surgeon in the next couple of weeks along with a MRI, MRA, even more bloodwork. A neurologist has also been brought in to begin seeing if he has the even rarer form of brain vasculitis.
Either is a difficult disease to diagnose and treat. The treatment comes with serious risks, including premature death.
Make Him a Saint
I can’t make it through daily Mass without sobbing right now. I continually pray for my husband to be made a saint before the end. It is a prayer that has welled up from deep springs within me that I didn’t even know existed until now. My first prayer was not, “Heal him.” It was “Please Lord, make him a saint before the end.”
My husband and I have found ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane asking for God to take this, but that His will be done. He is helping us let go of our own desires, dreams, and will so that we may be conformed to God. It isn’t easy to let go of those dreams, but we are confident that God will work for our good in all of this, even if death is coming sooner than we had hoped for my husband.
We pray and plan for best and worst-case scenarios, including those painful, but necessary discussions about funeral Masses, burial, bills, and how our daughter and I will be taken care of when he is gone. There is grace in these deeply hard discussions.
We have been given a gift to prepare should my husband die. We can be prepared, strengthened, and sanctified through this period. We have an opportunity to love one another more deeply now.
An Opportunity to Grow in Holiness
If we pretend that death is off beyond the distant horizon, we miss out on an opportunity to grow in holiness and to experience the depths of love that can only be explored in death. If the disease takes many years, we have been given the gift of truly living the life of love and holiness God desired for us through the good that could only be brought about by this pain.
The strength God is giving to my husband can only come from Him. He is able to pick me up when I stumble. As Phil and I walk together, deep well-springs of living water come out of the depths to refresh us. We can trust that God will provide, even if it means my husband will leave me a young widow.
Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate student theologian with an emphasis in philosophy. She writes the weblog Swimming in the Depths. “The Blood, We Thought It Was Some Kind of Fluke” is a shorter version of Confronting Death in a Culture of Avoidance, reprinted with permission from Catholic Exchange.