Monday was our house guest’s, Lisa Marie’s, birthday. She turned 58. Last year when she turned 57, we threw big shindig at the church. Food. Punch. Taco Bar. Cakes. Testimonials. Even a video clip of Mark Lowry (her favorite of the old Gaither Band guys) to sing Happy Birthday to her. We went all out. We didn’t think Lisa would have birthday #58. She did.
Lisa has been defying the odds ever since she was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2018. The doctors thought she would live 6 months, at best. Four plus years later, we were celebrating #58.
This time the celebration was more subdued. A group of folks came over to our house and had a mini-singspiration for Lisa. I’ll be honest when we were singing “Because He Lives,” I was watching Lisa. She was moving her lips, more than singing. She was not bursting out the way she used to sing the Gaither hits. Lisa was so thankful for the folks coming over– as much as you can appreciate a group of people when you were in the bathroom throwing up before they arrived and were barfing as soon after they left. Lisa loved the evening, but I was wiping away tears. Ugh. Cancer sucks. It is literally sucking the life out of our dear friend. Karla and I have had front row seats to the devastating effects of cancer.
As you may know, Lisa came to live with us permanently in November of 2021 (I wrote a book, “Got Cancer? There’s Help” about our journey with her). When she first came, of course, she was sick. Some weeks the chemo made her really, really sick. But she was still mobile, still able to get around. She is a neat freak and often she would clean our house and wash the dishes. Sometimes, only her bald head reminded us that Lisa was battling cancer. It’s not like that now. She is not the same gregarious Lisa Marie, not Pressley. She is in pain. She is taking a lot of medicine. It’s a battle of knowing how much to give her. Did I mention how cancer sucks the life out of a person? It does.
But we are not alone and neither is Lisa. Of course, Jesus is with us and so are many church folks. Besides hymn singing times, church folks have sat and cared for Lisa; brought her special treats; and spent the night so Karla can sleep. Many have sent encouraging cards, texts and voice messages. The church folks have offered her so much support. It’s living into Paul’s words to the Romans:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5.
Lisa belongs to us. She is part of the body– the sick and dying part these days. Soon she will be seeing Jesus face to face, but before she does, she is seeing the hands and feel of Jesus at work through so many people of the church of Jesus Christ. They’ve proven that pro-life is much more than pro-birth, it’s pro-dignity at the end of life too. Thank you, Central Church. You’ve blessed Lisa, Karla and me.