Me and Eva when she found out the cancer was back
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
I first met Eva a little less than two years ago in the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. I was having dinner with some good friends, and I noticed the woman at the table behind me was crying. She was with her son and husband. My friends knew her from the neighborhood swim team and they told me she had pancreatic cancer. As we got up to leave, I felt compelled to walk over to her table and give her a hug, so I did. It turned out she had just returned from a funeral of another friend she had met who also had pancreatic cancer. She told me, “it seems you don’t survive.”
Eva was very open about her sufferings, and mostly how she didn’t want to leave her adopted son motherless. She vowed to fight, and fight it she did. I don’t think I have ever met anyone with the will to live as strong as hers was. Her son was her heart. Throughout her journey she welcomed prayer. She got all of us in the neighborhood and beyond outside of ourselves and coming together in prayer. We were Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and I believe even agnostic but there in that living room there were no labels, there was no fighting. We were just human beings who saw a mother and a wife suffering, who put our differences aside and prayed together for healing for her. It was a glimpse of what I think life could be if we stopped labeling each other and started loving each other, something this world so very desperately needs.
There were many points on her journey where she almost passed away. One of those times was back last October of 2015. She called me back then and told me she saw the other side of the veil, and she knew it was all about forgiveness. She said we need to forgive one another. I knew that was a revelation from heaven because I know it’s true. My cousin had painted some paintings of Jesus and Mary and sent them to her. She said staring at them she knew she wanted to become Catholic. She had an understanding of the Eucharist, and so, there in her hospital bed, she received the Sacraments. I wept. It was beautiful.
She had a brief remission from her cancer (which it probably wasn’t) and we were elated, but a short 3 months later, the cancer was back with a vengeance. Eva struggled. She told me maybe God was punishing her because she had made some promises she didn’t keep. I told her God didn’t work that way. He knows our weakness, and loves us in it, and as long as we keep coming to Him and not rejecting Him, his grace is sufficient. She asked me if I ever got sick of God, and I told her that I did not, but sometimes I got sick of religious people. She said that was it! People had told her she was sick because she didn’t have enough faith. I told her that God never promised us we wouldn’t suffer, in fact, as long as we’re on this earth we will definitely suffer. The most powerful thing we can do is unite our suffering to the cross. Jesus Himself suffered more than any of us. That is true love. Christ on the Cross. I believe Eva did unite her suffering to Christ’s though she may not have known it. She willingly suffered for love of her son and husband. She endured hours of chemotherapy even after she was told she was terminal, because the chemo could prolong her life. She wanted to be around for Michael. She wanted him to have a mother and to know that he was loved. She told me more than once she was grateful for the cancer because it got her priorities in order. Her body was battered and beaten by the beast that is cancer and she continued to fight to live for them.
In her final days she called me when I was in St. Louis with my dad. She told me it was time for her to go and she was scared. I told her that the most stated phrase in the bible is “Do not be afraid.” She told me that made her feel better. She told me she wanted me and Fr. Bala to be at her funeral, but both of us were out of town. She held on long enough for both of us to get back. She will get her wish.
When I came back from St. Louis it was apparent how bad the cancer had spread. She endured more in her little physical body than anyone I have seen. The last thing we said to each other was, “until I see you again.” On Monday, I went by her house. She had fallen and hit her head. The nurse said she would likely never wake up again. She had a picture of Michael on her chest. She looked peaceful. I knelt at her bedside and said a prayer. I whispered, “until I see you again,” and said goodbye to her husband. When I left I said a Divine Mercy Chaplet for her on the way to teach my RCIA class. A mere three hours later she passed away.
I want to thank everyone out there who has prayed for her. I know a Mass was said at a high altar at St. John Cantius in Chicago for her this morning. It is breathtaking how many people have been touched by her life and story. I have little doubt of where she is, with all the prayers said for her, and knowing the love of our merciful God, and how Eva sacrificed to stay alive for her family. Please keep praying for Eva’s husband Andrew, and her son Michael as they now navigate life without her.
Until I see you again sweet friend….
Funeral Mass is on Friday, March 17, 2017