Much has happened since the blog was last updated in August, but I feel as though Jenna’s story has too much to offer to let it sit idle in my mind. And though I will skip a lot of the details, it is my hope that you will experience both Jesus and Jenna as you continue reading. Also, make sure you give me a little grace as we all know that Jenna was a far superior and far more inspirational writer :). As for the title, it comes directly from Jenna as she told me in her last week that it was a book I HAD to read (and which I am now reading; The Last Battle – Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)
The month of September brought a lot of hard days. Mentally for me; physically for Jenna. More and more often she felt ill, and many days she could only lay in a ball on the couch to ease the pain. Yet, throughout all of it, she never complained. She still had full confidence in complete healing from the Lord. As the days and weeks moved forward, good days were fewer and farther to come by. My heart took a beating that month as I could literally do nothing to ease the pain of my wife. All I could do was bring her things she needed and sit with her as she battled the pain. Looking back I now cherish these moments.
And yet, even as good days diminished, she fully expected to go Harry Potter World at the end of September. The plan was for a 5 day Nutritional impatient stay at Cincinnati Childrens Liberty to get her energy and nutrition up, and then be on her way with her wonderful Lexington friends. To say she was excited would be selling it short.
And so, we packed our bags and headed for our inpatient stay. To make things even better, our doctor (whom we love) was on service at the Liberty campus that week. It all seemed perfect to set us out for new adventures. The first few days went as planned. Jenna received nutrition, and I ran a few errands in Cincinnati a little each day – we all know how much I needed to get out of the hospital to stay cheerful
Our plan only took us as far as those first few days. Beyond that, I came face to face with the realization that the world is out of my hands. As much control as I wanted to have / thought I had, I learned quickly and painfully that this world doesn’t respond to my plans, my wants, or my hopes. Day 3 or 4, I’m not exactly sure, brought news that I’ve dreaded since we started walking down this road again. The pain she was having wasn’t caused by any fluid (which we were hoping). The pain was, in fact, coming from a partially obstructed bowel caused by ever-expanding cancer tissue. This, an inoperable, no solution scenario. And so we could only wait. Dreadfully wait.
By the time I came to realize what this actually meant, Jenna was already being heavily sedated at her request to minimize the pain. This meant that our conversations became very short lived as she slept more often. As the week went by, Many of our dear friends and family came to see Jenna. To say their goodbyes. To comfort me.
My heart aches as I re-live these experiences for the first time as I write this post. But these tears are good tears; tears of loss, but tears of joy and cleansing. To watch the lives of those she impacted show up that week was beauty in a pit of despair. To see Jenna when she was awake inquire about the lives of those who visited and deflecting her condition showed her heart and her love for others beyond herself.
In the few times I was able to speak to Jenna the last few days, there are glimmers of light in what felt like the darkest darkness I will ever experience. She would frequently inform the doctors that she was DNR (do not resuscitated), she would mention “how awful would it be to be with Jesus and then wake up back here in all this pain”. She had no fears. She spoke of the great banquet she was going attend and “eat all the food” and to run again. To the very end, she was not shy to share how excited she was to go and be with Jesus. In fact, just weeks prior the only complaint I ever heard her say was when she was feeling terrible, “This sucks, I want to go and be with Jesus”.
Her heart was right where it needed to be. At peace and eagerly waiting to be with her Savior. On October 2nd, at 2:12am, Jenna came face to face with the One whom she LOVED and gave herself to; and she was fully restored and fully healed. No more pain, no more tears. The life Jesus promises us was fully revealed to her on that day.
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this..?
In the past 3 months, rarely does a minute go by where I am not grieving. Sorrow is found easy and often. It lurks at every turn. Questions and doubts come and go. Yet I am surrounded by an amazing community of friends and family that are determined to walk, sit, and lament alongside me in this. Each day comes with different challenges, a journey which I may share in future blog posts should I feel there is something of depth to share.
As I read through books Jenna found comforting, I stumbled across a highlighted passage in Tim Keller’s book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering:
Now I have found freedom in anchoring my days and nights with Jesus’ spirit. To live one day at a time without fretting over tomorrow frees me and soothes my suffering. With renewed trust in Jesus comes renewed love, hope, and faith. My focus turns from my pain to His love. I have discovered a new treasure – the gift of pain is the gift of God Himself. In the end, He alone is truly my delight and comfort. I have learned the meaning of Psalm 119:71: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
Psalm 27:4 will now guid my journey till the end “One thing I ask of my Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him in His temple.”
I can say with confidence; this has been Jenna’s heart through this journey. She suffered joyfully, something I hope to learn from her as a final gift she left for me to receive. Her confidence in Jesus speaks volumes and was displayed by the way she lived; by the way she suffered.
As I near the end of my writing, this post was written to share the gap between Jenna’s last blog post and October 2nd. After that came another whirlwind of events and emotions in itself. As I sit here, I would ask that if you are feeling compelled to help Jenna leave a legacy, there are two very good options.
– Help establish Jenna’s Young Life endowment fund to send kids to camp every year! (www.jennayl.com)
– Visit www.childrensmn.org/give and select “other” under gift designation and type in “OTST & Jenna Henderson” in the comments to designate your gift. These donations will go towards researching treatments and cures for Jenna’s specific rare ovarian cancer.
Finally, if you were unable to attend Jenna’s funeral, you can see it here.
Thank you all for your continued prayers, the meals, the visits, the tears and the laughs, as I no doubt need them often.