Christianity Oasis has provided you with this inspirational writing titled Testimonial from our Sojourn With Luz Leigh collection. We hope these short stories bring you understanding and peace within.


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Sojourn With Luz Leigh



"I see the moon, the moon sees me;
God bless the moon, God bless me."

Tonight as I look out the east window of the computer room, this little childhood rhyme comes to mind. As I sit here putting my thoughts in the computer, I turn often, look at the full moon and think happy thoughts.

As teenagers, we young people would drive out to Walker's Lake, sit by the water's edge and watch the moon come up over the trees that surrounded the lake. Or, maybe we would arrive at the lake after the full moon was high overhead. There would be sounds of hoot owls, unidentified small animals scampering in the nearby woods or a dog barking in the distance.

It was peaceful, quiet. We felt we were far away from home, parents and other friends. We could share dreams and expectations of life to come. Laughter would ring out, echoing through the forest. There were times that tears were shed as one of the lovers would give the sad news to the other partner that their time as a couple had come to an end. The drive back to town would seem much longer than the ride out to the lake. The moonlight was no longer a thing of beauty. Oh, but there were times when great joy occurred there. A young man would hold his sweetheart close to him and with only the moonlight to illuminate the car in which they sat, he would ask her to share the rest of his life as his wife.

On these occasions the drive back to town would be a happy excursion, ending much too soon. The bright full moon would seem to be smiling. Because the entrance to the lake is now blocked, no longer can young people seek solace there.

The full moon would at times come through an open window of one's bedroom. It was at times like that, a gentle hand would reach across the pillow to stroke the smooth, sweet smelling hair of the loved one. Ever so quietly the partner who was awake could ease from the bed, being careful not to disturb the sleep of the other. Tiptoeing from the room, making not a sound while opening the door leading to the porch, one could then sit in the old high-back cane-bottom rocker and think. Because there was no light except that provided by the beautiful moon in the sky, it was acceptable to sit outside in one's nightclothes. On summer nights, a mosquito might buzz around, trying to annoy the person who had no desire to even swat the pesky insect. In the winter, there was usually a cotton throw tossed in a chair by the hallway door, ready to be picked up as one left the warmth of the house. The cool, crisp night air was made more enjoyable by the bright moonlight casting an almost daylight aura on the porch and the adjacent yard.

A small child is whimpering in his sleep. The young mother lifts him from his bed that is bathed in moonlight streaming into the bedroom. She takes the child in her arms, quietly making her way across the room to the rocker. That favorite chair is placed near the south window which allows the moonlight to enter. The mother eases into the chair, begins to sing softly to the restless child. Soon the child is quiet, sound asleep on the mother's shoulder. Once again the light from a full moon has worked its magic.

The woman awakens from a deep sleep. She intuitively reaches across the pillow stroke the thick mass of hair of her sleeping mate, as she has done so many nights. When her hand finds no head resting on the pillow, she opens her eyes and sees a ray of moonlight shining on the empty space where her lover should have been. Fully awake now, she remembers the dreadful night years ago when she said an earthly goodbye to the one she loved. There had been a full moon, giving off a silver glow to the earth as if somehow seeking to replace with beauty the sadness she was feeling. On this night, as had become her custom on nights such as this, the woman took her keys, walked to her car, got in and drove to the cemetery where her loved one was buried. Upon arriving at the cemetery gate, there was no need for an artificial light because once again the full moon was there to illuminate the path for her. She made her way the short distance to the grave, sat on the dew-covered grass and wept. Even the beautiful moonlight could not prevent the tears from flowing down her cheeks. Memories of other moonlit nights began crowding into her mind. With these happy memories filling the innermost parts of her heart and mind, she was able to replace the tears with a smile. After an hour beside the well-kept grave, she arose and returned to her home. As she was entering the front door, she noticed that the moonlight was waning and would soon give way to the dawn of another day.

"I see the moon; the moon sees me. God bless the moon; God bless me."

My Life - Strengthened by Faith

The morning of Wednesday, 12 July 1995 dawned like so many summer days in Texas ... Hot. We had been experiencing triple digit temperatures for several days. This one would be no different weather-wise. However, before the sun went down that day my entire life would be forever changed.

As was his custom my husband arose around 5:00 a.m. He dressed quietly so as not to disturb me for I would not be waking up for another two hours. He joined some friends at their usual coffee drinking place, talked a while before leaving for a small town some forty miles away. The tractor dealership there had ordered a part he needed for some of our equipment. Before leaving the house, he had written me a note, reminding me that he was going there early that morning. As it turned out his trip was in vain; the part had not arrived in the daily shipment. He returned home without the much needed part. This was a part of GOD's plan. Had the part arrived our equipment would have been repaired and Jack would have been working alone that day. A friend of ours, who like us, owned a commercial hay baling business. He was called to see if we might borrow his piece of equipment for the day until we could repair ours. As was the custom between these two men, the friend gladly offered the use of the equipment.

Before going to the friend's home to pick up the piece of equipment, Jack, my beloved husband, stopped at my office to say good morning and to tell me of his plans for the day. He would return home to do some routine chores around the barn before leaving for the hay field. By now it was approximately 11:00 a.m. and I was busy at my desk. Busy doing what, you ask. I cannot remember but at the time I thought it was so important I did not take the time to rise from the desk, walk the few steps to where he was standing and kiss him goodbye. Little did I know I would always regret that omission. He said something like, "see you tonight", waved goodbye and was out of there in his usual manner of walking fast, as though he were on his way to a fire. I returned to my work.

Around 1:00 p.m. a call came in to our office. As was her custom, Natalie my co-worker for many years, answered the phone, and then said, "Mrs. Hardee, this call is for you." I do not know who called, but a lady said that I needed to come quick; that Jack had passed out. I grabbed my car keys and literally ran to my car. This was the call I had been dreading for years ... You see Jack had suffered a heart attack some seventeen years prior to this and death from heart failure was common in his family.

Because of the time of day, I thought he would have been in the hay field by that time. I drove quickly to Rogers Road to make my way to the field. However, as I turned onto Rogers Road, I noticed some county workers there and something just told me to stop and ask if they had noticed Jack go by in the last hour or so. They all shook their heads and one said they had seen him the day before but not that day. I hurriedly made my way to our home, thinking maybe he was there. He wasn't. I returned to the office and somehow found that he was at the Bill Jones home on Kingston Road over in an adjoining county.

By now some ten minutes had gone by since I had gotten the telephone call to come. Once again I ran to the car and headed to where I thought my husband was. Driving a little faster than I normally did, I was on the overpass crossing the freeway when I received a message from the LORD. Oh, HE did not speak audibly, but I felt HIS presence and it told me to slow down before I injured someone or myself. There was no need to rush ... There was nothing that I could do now to help Jack. I was crying so badly I could hardly see the road, but thank goodness it was one on which we traveled a lot, so I was familiar with it.

When I pulled into the Jones's driveway, I could see the first responder vehicle from our volunteer fire department parked near Jack's truck. I parked my car, jumped out and started running toward Jack's truck. There on the ground, under the broiling sun, lay my beloved, still and quiet as death. The young firefighter who had been kneeling beside the body, trying to revive him, saw me and came running to meet me. Charles, who had grown up with my children, came to me and said that I shouldn't go down there (to where the body lay). Charles knew Jack was dead and was trying to shield me from that, but I pushed past him, telling him that my place was beside my husband. He had tears in his eyes as he told me he had done everything he could for Mr. Hardee. I knew he had.

According to Mr. Jones, Jack had loaded the piece of equipment on the trailer behind his truck, drove through the gate, got out of the truck and closed said gate. As he was walking back to the driver's door, he and Mr. Jones called back and forth about how hot it was with Jack urging Mr. Jones to get back inside the house out of the heat. Mr. Jones assured him he would do so. He told me he watched as Jack opened the driver's door, which was on the opposite side of the truck from where Mr. Jones was standing. When Jack disappeared out of his sight, he thought maybe Jack had dropped something and bent down to retrieve it. After a few minutes when Jack did not re-appear, Mr. Jones walked out to the driveway to check. It was then he saw Jack's lifeless body laying on the sandy driveway, with the broiling sun pouring down on him. The emergency call was made for help, but by that time there was nothing anyone could do. The massive heart attack had taken him in a matter of seconds. My beloved's spirit had taken flight from his earthly body to find eternal rest where no one is concerned about hot weather, the lack of rain, or any of the other things we mortals find so important to us.

The emergency service ambulance from our home county was dispatched, with two of the kindest young men on board. They worked with the body a few minutes, but they along with me, knew there was nothing they could do. I was standing behind one the paramedics who was administering CPR and using the paddles to try to stimulate a pulse. I placed my hand on his shoulder, and asked that he stop ... I understood there was no more we could do to bring Jack back. With the most pained expression I have seen in a long time, the young man admitted there was nothing they could do. My husband was dead.

Almost as soon as I had arrived at the scene of his death, Jack's family and friends began to gather. We were to begin a long, hot vigil there with his body as we waited for the justice of peace to arrive. In October 1995 I wrote a short story, "The Long Wait", in which I described a portion of that fateful afternoon. I would like to share a portion of that with you now.

"Heather and David, along with their spouses, came soon after the medics had told me there was nothing they could do for my husband. We were told a justice of the peace had been called and would arrive shortly to conduct an inquest. Note: This is normal procedure in our state in the case of an unattended death. Then my beloved's lifeless body could be removed from the sandy driveway where he had fallen following the massive heart attack.

"The July sun beat down on us in its merciless intensity. We gathered together to share our grief and seek strength from each other. Friends and loved ones came when they heard about the tragedy that had struck our family. We had yet to hear from Don. He was in a nearby large city, picking up a load of steel, and would have to drive home not knowing his daddy was gone.

"We kept asking what was keeping the justice of the peace; how much longer would we have to wait. The answer was always the same, 'He's on his way.' The Jones family was most gracious to us, offering to let us go inside the house to find relief from the heat. We declined their offer because we felt our place was there at the side of our loved one. Cold water and towels were brought to us to temper the intense heat.

"We joined in a short audible prayer for Don's safety as he traveled, asking GOD's blessing on him has traveled that busy highway, and on us as we waited and tried to deal with this sudden loss.

"Finally, the justice of the peace arrived. He conducted the necessary procedure to satisfy our state, making his determination that death was caused by a massive heart attack. Note: The JP was a personal friend of ours and was aware of the first heart attack and the family history of heart problems. The young men from the funeral home very gently, and in a most professional manner, prepared to remove Jack's body from the scene. Still, no Don. My heart was breaking for him, because I knew he would want to see his daddy once more.

"Then, just as the hearse was backing down the driveway, someone called out, 'Don's here.' The long wait was over. A silent thank you to GOD was offered by me. As Don ran the short distance from his truck to the place where the small crowd of family and friends were gathered, there was a look on his face that will haunt me forever. It showed a hurt that was too deep for words to describe. His daddy, whom he loved so dearly, had left without a final goodbye to this firstborn son. The funeral directors stopped the vehicle, opened the door and allowed Don to have a few minutes with his daddy before they took him away.

"As I look back, I understand why there was a delay in the arrival of the justice of the peace. Had he arrived as quickly as had been anticipated, there would not have been time for Don to have returned from the city and driven to the Jones place to say farewell to his daddy.

"I will always be grateful for the long wait in the hot summer sun that we endured that Wednesday afternoon. There was a reason for it. Let us not be quick to question the happenings in our lives."

The family, along with a multitude of friends gathered at my home. I sat on the couch and received our guests. One after the other knelt in front of me, hugged me, cried with me, offered words of comfort, or simply held my hands, unable to speak. There were the men and women my age, friends from years past; there were new friends who had only known him a short while. And, then there were all the young people whom he loved and who loved him in return, tears streaming down their cheeks, weeping unashamedly for the man who meant so much to them. Audible prayers were said, but mostly it was just the feeling of Christ-like love that filled the room that helped me through those first few hours.

Late, late that night when the last person had left the house, except for my daughter Heather who would remain with me, I began to realize just what had really taken place. Because I am a mortal human being, my first prayer that night began with, "Father, why did you take him from me?' But, then as I sat quietly, with my arms around our daughter, I felt the peace of HIS presence, HIS reassurance that HE knew what was best for Jack and for me. Oh, I didn't want to accept it at first ... in my head I knew that HIS plan was the only way, but in my heart I was not ready to accept it fully.

The next few days were so full of activity ... Plans for the funeral ... Calls to be made to so many people ... Visits with dozens of our friends ... All things that must be done. I remember going to our family cemetery with the children to select the exact spot where we would place his earthly remains. Numerous burial plots were available near my parents and his parents. I chose the one at the foot of my daddy's grave and at the head of Jack's daddy's grave. That way our families would forever be joined there, Jack and I would be the conjunction between the Hardees and the Hearns.

My children and I made the trip to the funeral home to meet with Pat, a personal friend who was manager of the funeral home. Pat guided us ever so gently through the process of making the final arrangements for Jack's funeral. More decisions. How much money did we want to spend? Why type of casket? Did we want the American flag draped on it? What about the family spray of flowers? What clothes would he wear for his final farewell to his friends? With the support of my children, the kindness of Pat, and the LORD's presence, I made it through those tough questions. We chose a simple oak casket and requested the flag be placed on it. The family spray of flowers would be placed on a stand at the head of the casket. Because he was never one to dress up, it was decided that his newest pair of jeans and a dress shirt would be the clothing we would need to furnish. The shirt was the one he wore to David's wedding just a couple years before. His wedding ring would be on his hand until the final viewing when it would be removed and given to me. As a matter of note: I have worn that ring continuously since 15 July 1995; first on a chain and then on my finger after I had the ring sized to fit me.

On Thursday and Friday nights of that week, dozens of people visited us at the funeral home. Some were people who had known Jack since he was a young boy; others were people who had just recently met him. But all had come to show their respect for that little man with the big heart. A few were men, who as teenagers, Jack had arrested or threatened to arrest for some infraction of the law. They now recognized that he was only doing his job and in the long haul, helping them with their lives. Older men and women who had taught him; younger ones whom he had given a helping hand when they needed it; those with whom he had played baseball and football; present and former law enforcement officers. The list could go on and on ... There were so very many of his friends and those of our children who came to mourn his sudden passing and to give support to those of us that he left behind. And throughout those tough days, I continually called on my LORD to give me strength to meet the demands that each day brought. And each day HE supplied my every need.

Saturday morning dawned as all the other days that week - clear skies and hot. I was the first to arise at my home which I had shared with Leigh and Keith the night before. I made my way to the barn where the equipment and trucks were parked. There was the familiar red work truck, parked in its usual spot in the first bay. I'm not sure how long I had been sitting in the truck when Keith came into the barn. He wanted to know what I was doing and if I were alright. Typical son. Oh, Keith is not our biological child, but we had claimed him for years. My children refer to him as "brother Keith" and we love him as such. (The red work truck still sits in the barn; no longer used, but there as a reminder of the past.) That morning I was sitting there thinking about my beloved, smelling the familiar odor of him and that truck, holding his leather work gloves, knowing he would have no need of them ever again. Just being like a child, seeking the comfort of a secure place that doesn't change. But, change had indeed come into our lives that week.

Soon that morning more folks began arriving with even more food. The friends and neighbors made sure no one in our household would have to cook from that fateful Wednesday afternoon until many days afterward. People were so kind to us, so thoughtful. Lots of out of town relatives arrived in time for us to make our way to our church, some six miles out in the country. Keith insisted that I and some others ride with him and Leigh in their van. This is the part of the story that blurs because as I left the house I knew when I returned I would have viewed my husband's body for the last time on this earth. There is a faint memory of our passing the family cemetery on the way to the church and seeing the open grave, the canvas tent, the folding chairs, everything ready for the final service.

When we arrived at the church there was such a huge crowd gathered there. Many were those who were with me in the driveway that hot afternoon, who had been with me at my home and at the funeral home. Then there were the other many, many friends and family members who were there to pay their final respects. The church was already filled, the fellowship hall was packed and there were lots of folks standing out in the hot summer sun. I only wished Jack could have been there in person to greet all these people one last time.

Our family was seated at the front of the church on the right hand side; we never sit on the right side, but then we had never said goodbye to a loved one from this church either. The ministers who spoke included the pastor of our home church at the time, who gave the obituary, read some scripture and offered up a prayer. The message was brought by our dear friend and former pastor, Bro. Bob Crowson. Jack's cousin, who is a minister, read a poem prepared by David's stepdaughter, Susan. There was music and there were hundreds of flowers. I had written a tribute to Jack that I wanted to read, but grief overtook me and I decided to ask a friend to read it. These were my thoughts on 13 July 1995, twenty-four hours following his death.

"In Memory of Jack, my Beloved, written by Sharon July 13, 1995.

"It was 1955. She was young; he told her she was beautiful. She thought of him as handsome. They fell in love. It was a love that lasted 40 years.

"On December 20, 1958 he took her as his wife in a simple ceremony performed by her pastor. His daddy was their witness.

"He cared for her, provided for her and most of all he loved her. She bore his three children, Don, David and Heather. He loved them with all his heart and they returned his love.

"He never placed his name upon a church membership roll, but he knew and loved the Lord. He always expected her and the children to be in regular attendance at the Lord's house.

"On Wednesday July 12, 1995, our loving Lord looked down from above and saw how hot the weather was and how tired Jack's body really was. God, in His infinite wisdom, called the old cowboy/rancher home for a rest.

"He will be missed by those loved ones, but they are grateful that God gave him 63 years of happy, productive living. If there are hay fields in heaven, we know who the head hay baler will be.

"Goodbye, my love, until I join you across the river.

"All my love, signed Sharon"

Because there were so many at the funeral who were unable to hear the service, we had that writing published in the local newspaper with a notation expressing our thanks and appreciation to all who brought comfort during the grief we were feeling following the sudden death of our husband, father, grandfather and brother.

Music during the service included "Surely Goodness and Mercy", or "Through it All", or "If that isn't Love". All three were listed on the program for the service and sad to say I can't remember which ones they sang. I'm sure it wasn't all three of them. Following the reading of my tribute to Jack, his cousin led in the closing prayer.

After the service was concluded and the hundreds of mourners had filed past the open casket, the immediate family gathered around to say a final goodbye. Some of us placed something special in the casket with him. One left a note, one left special photos, others coins or dollar bills. There was a special meaning behind each item that was left. Each of us had decided what to leave prior to the service, but had said nothing to the others. (Later at the cemetery, our then daughter-in-law who knew of his love of cigarettes, placed a fresh, unlit one on top of the casket before it was lowered. Out of respect, she would not take her farewell gift into the church.)

I can remember that someone, maybe Pat or Keith took me by the arm and said it's time to go. Oh, that was the longest walk I ever took ... from the casket to the waiting van outside. I never looked back. I think my children were still inside the church when I came out. This is one of those things I somehow cannot remember. I can remember getting into the van and our following the hearse back to the cemetery. Because there were so many cars crowded on the road leading to the church, the hearse was driven away from the church in a direction we normally do not travel. Later we joked and said that Pat was giving Jack his money's worth ... A long ride to the cemetery.

By the time we arrived at the family cemetery, it was well after noon time and the brutal July sun was beaming down. Again, I remember very little about the service at the grave side. Lots of well wishers were waiting to greet me and the children, but it was so very hot. At the conclusion of the service, it was decided I should move to the van where I could at least get a little cool air. As I was walking from the grave site, I passed by my daddy's and my mother's graves. I had a fleeting thought of how daddy must have felt each time he had to say goodbye to a spouse; he buried two wives. I was not really aware of the heat; there was a numbness about me. I felt nothing except emptiness. In my head I knew he was gone, but in my heart I could not let go. There was no way I could fathom what life without my loved one would be like. I can remember saying a silent prayer for strength to just make it through the time at the cemetery and let me get home to the security of an abode we had shared for so many years.

We left the cemetery and traveled back to the church where lunch had been prepared for us. Again, my memory fades here. The next memory I have is of our being in the yard at our home with lots of family members and friends present. There were so many potted plants sitting under the shade trees as well as numerous ones inside the house. Knowing I could never care for that many plants, and wanting to show some gratitude for the many hours my friends had put in making my life a little easier the past few days, I shared some of those plants with them. There still were plants everywhere. I tried very hard to keep them all alive. As of this writing some ten years later, I still have three of them. Quite an accomplishment for someone with a brown thumb such as I have.

Late in the afternoon my family and I drove back to the cemetery, which is the custom around here. You go back for one last look at the flowers before either the heat or the cold destroys them. You go back for one final goodbye to that cold, lifeless body that now lies forever out of your sight, buried in the earth from which we came and to which we will return. As everyone knows, I take photographs of everything, so we took my camera along. All the immediate family except our grandson, Bryon, and Bob my son-in-law were there. We stood in a group, each mourning in his own way, and had our picture taken. There we were. My biological and foster children and grandchildren. Don, David, Heather, Lucy, Brandy, Ann, Susan, Patsy, Keith, Leigh, Stephen, Justin. and me. Thirteen in all. Thirteen, you say. Isn't that an unlucky number? Not in our family. January 13th was the birthday of Jack and Heather. In one photo we are all sort of smiling, except for Heather. When I look at the photo now, it breaks my heart to see how much that child was hurting.

Later that evening Keith and Leigh left for their home. The other children began to make their way to their respective homes. The first couple of nights following the funeral and burial there was someone with me. My precious granddaughter, Lucy, remained with me. In fact she stayed several days and nights with me.

The quiet evening hours were the hardest to bear. Those were the times I really cried out to the LORD. Please help me, I would say to HIM. And HE would give me peace and strength to go on. I continued to do the daily tasks that were expected of me, but each day I would drive to the cemetery, kneel beside the freshly dug grave, cry for a while and pray for an even longer time. For two years, with the exception of days when I would be out of town attending classes thru a state university, every day I would drive to the cemetery. I missed Jack so very much. I knew my strength and any power I might have would come from the LORD. And HE did not fail me.

The day after Jack's death I began to realize just how drastically my life was about to change. One of the first things that came to mind was, "How will I make it through the storms?" I turned to my heavenly Father and begged for HIS loving hand to be placed on me when the storms came. "Please, Father, take away my fear of lightning and thunder," fervently I prayed. "I cannot live alone with this great fear." Peace came over me as I felt the Father's granting of my request. Less than a week later I would face the first storm.

I heard the thunder begin to move in from the northwest as a weather front moved into the area. There were seven other people in the room with me, but not the one human to whom I had always turned. No fear came to me that night. The storm moved through and the following morning there was sunshine. However, just after dark that afternoon more unsettled weather was looming on the horizon. This night I would not have seven adults in the room with me; my eight-year-old granddaughter was the only earthling there to comfort me. As the lightning lit up the night sky and the thunder caused the window panes to rattle, I felt the presence of the Comforter. This proved to me that the fear I had lived with for so many years had indeed been removed from my life forever.

There had been other storms in my life, but I had managed to weather them. The deaths of my parents when I was young. Then the loss of my husband. These were preparations for facing life as an adult, without those that were the closest to me. My Faith was tested each time, but each time my Faith carried me through. Just as I overcame my fear of the thunder and lightning, I have overcome heartache and disappointments. My Faith was basically a happy one. My family and my long involvement in my job before I retired brought contentment to me. My children and now my grandchildren have been the "light of my life" as the saying goes. I know that all I am and all that I have are a direct blessing from HIM. Only because our LORD has chosen me as one of HIS children can I be so happy with my lot in life.

Life moved along at the usual pace for a small town. I went to work five days a week. Attended worship services at my little country church on Sunday. Things were going well, then on a Saturday in late December 1998 tragedy struck our family. My grandson, who was almost sixteen years old, was deer hunting on family property. He spotted a coyote near the fence line between our place and the adjoining property. He fired off two shots at the coyote. Unknown to him, one of his cousins was walking near the fence line and was hit in the arm by one of the bullets. It was not until sometime later that evening that we became aware of the accident. This nearly devastated my grandson and his dad. Don brought Bryon to my home where we sat together. Bryon withdrew into himself and would not talk. This was frightening to me. I knew he needed to talk about his feelings, but I did not push him. I went into my bedroom and talked to the LORD about it for a while, asking HIS guidance as to what I should say to this child who was so hurt.

A deputy sheriff came to interview Bryon about the incident and was not blessed with tactfulness. Sensitivity was not a strong point of the deputy. He had talked with the victim at the hospital who stated he knew it was just an accident and had no desire for any charges to be filed against Bryon. It was a very trying time for our family, but once again the LORD stepped in and gave us the strength to overcome. After many weeks in the hospital the man was released. It took Bryon a while to get over this horrible accident, but thru GOD's grace he made it.

My life moved along at an ordinary pace for several years. I continued to draw strength daily from my LORD. Regular church attendance was a given fact in my life. Not only did the messages from my pastor give me guidance, but the fellowship with other believers uplifted me. We prayed for each other each time we met. During the week if there was a crisis or just a minor problem we called on each other to intercede on the other's behalf. It was these strong prayer warriors that helped me keep going.

In 2001 my health began to slide. I thought the tiredness and lethargy was just a part of growing old. After all I would soon reach retirement age. I began to notice I would forget things ... couldn't concentrate as I once could. I kept praying, "Please don't let me have Alzheimer's disease". Finally I sought medical help. I was diagnosed as being extremely anemic. After lots of iron tablets and iron rich foods, the tests showed there had been no improvement. It was then I really became alarmed, but still keeping the Faith that HE would take me through.

My family physician had referred to me to the finest surgeon in our county. He ordered more tests, changed my medications and began to search for the reason I was not improving. I saw two other doctors during that year, neither of which could find what my problem was. Except for one, all my doctors are Christians and I had faith in them. During all this time I prayed every day that the LORD would show us what was wrong with me and what needed to be done.

On May 5, 2003, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy at the local hospital. Since I had had two of these procedures before, I knew it would not be pleasant, but a necessary thing. At 5:30 a.m. my son Don had me at the surgery department, ready for the day. Since I was sedated before the procedure began, I remember very little of what went on.

My next recollection is of being in a room with my children and the surgeon there with me. He was telling us that finally the growth in my colon had been found. It would be necessary for me to have surgery. I asked could he just take me back down to the surgery suite and get it over with. That was not an option, but he would admit me to the hospital and early the next morning he would operate. To me that was good news ... I did not want to postpone it.

The next morning I was taken down to the surgery suite. My children and my pastor were there with me. We had a prayer before I was wheeled away. I must admit I was a little anxious because I have been such a healthy person. I had not had any type surgery since my last child was born. But, I finally relaxed and said a silent prayer as I began to lose consciousness from the anesthesia. The next thing I knew I was in recovery.

Before I went into surgery, one of the nurses assigned to me had explained that, depending on the extent of the surgery, I might have to be fitted with a "bag". When I was back in my room and fully awake, I felt this huge thing on my body. It stretched from just below my breasts to far below my waist. I asked my nurse if I had been fitted with a "bag". She laughed and said, "Oh, no, that is your bandage." Relief flooded over me. A very special prayer went forth upon hearing those welcome words.

Although the surgeon had shared the news with my children immediately following the surgery, it was several days before he felt I was strong enough to receive the news. A section of my colon along with ten lymph nodes had been removed. The cancer in the colon was stage three. Most of you know that stage four is the worst there is. Five of the ten lymph nodes contained cancer cells. For this reason, the surgeon recommended I begin chemotherapy as soon as I was strong enough. Now, this was the time that my Faith really was tested. Cancer. The dreaded word no one wants to hear. But, I knew that only the LORD would determine my future. I would lie in my hospital bed and pray. Over and over I would plead with HIM to allow me to live ... Allow me to be here a little longer to help my children ... Allow me to serve HIM better.

The day finally came when I was dismissed from the hospital and came home. Oh, how wonderful it was to walk into this little haven. I felt so secure here. As usual my children were here to minister to me and see to my every need. Again, I went to the LORD in thanksgiving for these wonderful children. Lots of friends came, bringing food, flowers and cards. Some came to just visit. I needed all that to help reinforce my courage to face the uncertain future.

My pastor and his wonderful wife brought enough food to feed a small army, as did so many others. My heart was so blessed with all this outpouring of love. I knew HE was working in my life.

About three weeks following the surgery, I made my first trip to a clinic in a nearby town for a visit with an oncologist. I could not even spell his title at the time of that first visit because this was the first time I or anyone in my immediate family had been cursed with the "big C", what we cancer patients sometimes call our illness.

After reviewing my records, he determined I would need thirty treatments of chemotherapy. It would take six months. Six months, I couldn't believe my ears. That is half a year! But by the end of June 2003 I had begun the treatments that would kill any cancer cells left behind in my body. Of course, it would also kill other good cells in my body. That's the chance we take. Five days a week my daughter would drive me to the clinic. On several occasions each of my sons would drive me for the treatment. Although they had full time jobs, their thinking was, "You're my mom, too, and I want to help."

The first treatment went great. I hardly knew it had been administered to me. I can remember going to the office where I once worked and the public library for a short visit. When asked how the treatment went, I was able to say that it was nothing to it. By the end of that first week, I would have to eat those words ... As the treatments progressed I became weaker and had more ill effects. But, I knew if I were to whip this disease that had invaded my body I would have to undergo those treatments.

Each Monday of treatment week I would feel good because my body would have had two weeks to recuperate from the previous treatments. But as the week wore on the weakness and nausea would return. By Friday I would be feeling so bad it was all I could do to make myself dress to make the trip. These were the times I really reached out to the LORD for strength. I prayed earnestly for HIM to help me. But because I did not want to worry my children or friends I tried so very hard to pretend all was well. I don't think I fooled anyone, but they never let on that they knew how sick I was. My treatments were not nearly as strong as those administered to many of the other patients who were at the clinic at the same time I was there. For those very sick people, I tried to put on a happy face when I was waiting and during the time the nurse was administering my treatment. Because mine was so mild, I suppose, I could be in and out of the treatment room in about ten minutes. Other patients were laying back in recliners with an IV attached to their arms, some for as long as five to eight hours.

In September 2003 near the end of my treatments, I wrote an article entitled "The Room" which described the room at the clinic where I and other cancer patients received our chemo treatments. Some of the following thoughts were taken from that article.

"In May of this year I was referred to this clinic and a doctor who would be my oncologist. Following my office visit with him, I was introduced to a Registered Nurse, whom I shall call Linda. This lady was such a jewel. She probably sensed my apprehension about the prospect of having treatments. She took Heather and me into this "room" and explained that here would be where I would receive my treatments. Most of what she said that day escaped me, but Heather was there taking notes.

"The room was filled with patients hooked up to I.V.s. There were about six comfortable recliners where the patients sat while receiving their chemo treatments. Linda sat beside me, explaining in detail what would take place when I began the treatments the next week. Earlier in the year, (before I had been diagnosed with cancer), I had talked to a teacher at our high school who had just completed a long series of treatments. She was one of those patients who must undergo really aggressive treatments, eight hours a day, five days a week for several months. Thus, I thought that would be my fate. I was so relieved when the oncologist told me that my six-month period of treatments would involve a light treatment five days a week; then off three weeks. Linda explained that the treatments would take about fifteen minutes. I felt so blessed, relieved, almost happy.

"The first two rounds of treatment were taken in the "old" room. Then we patients and the nurses who ministered to us were moved to a new, more spacious treatment room. Lots of windows brought in the bright sunshine and the welcome sight of rain during the hot dry summer months. It was not a picnic by any means, but the surroundings seemed to lift the spirit of some of the patients.

"When I began my trips to "the room", I realized I was so much healthier than most of the other patients. Upon telling a friend that I felt guilty for being about to waltz in, take my treatment in about ten minutes and be out of there, he told me not to feel guilty, but to feel blessed. I did feel blessed and I thank my GOD that he saw me through that phase of my life. I was so grateful to the doctor and his staff, especially the nurses in "the room". When I told my primary doctor about the guilty/blessed feelings, he said that I had been sent there as an encouragement to others, both the patients and the nurses, but especially the nurses who saw so many really sick people day in and day out.

"Therefore, as I neared the end of my treatments, I continued to ask GOD to help me be an instrument of HIS love and concern for all HIS children. It was with thanksgiving that I thought of "the room" as a part of my life that soon was behind me. To my caring Heavenly Father I said thank you for such loving care."

My life began to return to something close to normal Once you have experienced cancer, you look at life a little differently, always thankful for another day to serve HIM. You spend a little more time in prayer, so it was with great interest that I found something called "The Five Fingers of Prayer" on the Internet one night while surfing the 'net.' What follows is a general synopsis of it, with some comments of my own thrown in. I used this for a devotional at my church in December 2003. Begin your daily prayers using your fingers as a guide for whom you should pray.

Your thumb is nearest to you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. It is for my children that I begin my prayers. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty."

The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. As I spoke that Sunday morning, I added nurses to this category. Just two days prior I had attended graduation ceremonies for the 2003 class that had completed their studies at a vocational school for nurses in a nearby town. One of the speakers reminded us that the nurses are the most important people you will be in contact with if you are hospitalized. Not the dietician, the maintenance people, the volunteers or even the doctors, but your nurses.

The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the President, leaders in business and industry and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need GOD's guidance. I added our local leaders on the county, city and school district level. Especially, our city officials who serve with no compensation, only the sense of having given back to the community.

The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need our prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.

And lastly comes our little finger, the smallest finger of them all, which is where we should place ourselves in relation to GOD and others. Your pinkies should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively. The biggest part of this prayer should be thanksgiving for all HIS past, present and future blessings.

When I began putting my thoughts on paper about the things that have transpired in my life during the past ten years, it was to be a written history for my family. Later I was encouraged by a newly found friend to share with others how my Faith has brought me through some very tough times. So now, in addition to being prepared for my family, this true story has been written with the desire it might help someone who has or is experiencing a traumatic period in life. When I went through the dark valleys in my life, I knew the LORD was with me every step of the way. Oh, that is not to say I did not grieve over the deaths of my parents and my husband or become upset when I dealt with cancer. But, I knew I could go on because I have been blest with a wonderful family that stands with me in everything I do. But, more than that, I knew the LORD was there anytime I turned to HIM for help. HE has never failed me.

"I see the moon, the moon sees me; God bless the moon, God bless me."

The list of collected writings by Luz Leigh:

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