From the time that I gave birth to my 3rd child I didn’t have time to do much else other than take care of my family. This is understandable being as these children were born within 3 ½ years of each other. Being a person with many interests, I often felt a tinge of jealousy for women who had the time, talents and energy to do the things that I would have enjoyed. But I was always able to pacify myself with Ecclesiastes 3:1. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose…” Most of these women were in a different time and season in their life. They were either older than me and had their children at least partially grown, or they were yet to be blessed with a family. I knew that my children would not be small forever, and that this was my time and season for full-time motherhood. Later on I would have more time to follow my interests and build my talents.
Then I met Lynn Lee. Lynn was friendly and outgoing and she was the kind of person that everyone took an immediate liking to. She often told people exactly what she thought about almost everything. But she had a talent for doing it in a way that made you want to please her, not become defensive or angry. Having always been a basically shy person myself, I admired the way she spoke to everyone and made friends so easily.
Lynn and I shared a love for music, but she seemed to have been blessed with more talent in that area than I. She had a beautiful alto voice and was always the first one in the choir to get the part right. In stake choir everyone wanted to sit by her so that they could hear the part correctly. She led the ward choir and the music in Primary as well as the stake choir on occasion, and also a children’s singing group at her children’s elementary school. She claimed she didn’t play the piano well, but when asked to play a song for a meeting when no other pianist was available she played it perfectly.
Lynn was very active in PTA and in the church. She spoke freely about the church to many people. When Lynn put her mind to something, she did it. When she decided she was a few pounds overweight she started a diet and exercise program that gave her a figure that made many of us envious.
Lynn had done, and was doing, many of the things that I wanted to do. She had many talents that I admired. Unfortunately, my reasoning of times and seasons did not work in this case. Lynn was a couple of years younger than I was and, at the time I met her, had one more child than I did! I struggled not to become jealous. I figured that the Lord must have his purposes for allowing Lynn to develop her talents so far and to be able to do so much by such a young age. Sometimes the Lord’s purposes are made known sooner than we would like.
When the tumor on Lynn’s adrenal gland was discovered we all decided that it must be benign. The doctors assured her that with its location it probably was. I figured that no one could be so well with a tumor the size of a ham inside them unless it was benign. The operation to remove the tumor went well. Life seemed to be returning to normal. Tests were done on the tumor removed from Lynn to determine whether it was benign or malignant. We were all shocked when we heard the news that the tumor had been malignant. Lynn was devastated. But the doctor assured her that he felt he had gotten the entire tumor.
In the days that followed Lynn learned all she could about the type of cancer she had and weighed her options. She found the type of cancer she had was very deadly. No one lived past a few years with this cancer. But it was also a very rare disease and there weren’t many figures to go by. Lynn felt she would be the one to beat the odds. Besides, she believed in miracles. When she felt impressed not to have the chemotherapy that the doctor’s suggested she felt that was “the miracle” that she had been looking for.
Not long afterward some of Lynn’s symptoms returned. Fearful that the cancer had come back she visited the doctor. She was overjoyed to find that instead of the cancer she expected she was carrying a baby! Unfortunately her doctors did not share her joy. They cautioned her about continuing her pregnancy, fearing that the cancer may return. She made the only decision she felt she could and delivered a healthy daughter.
I’ll never forget the night the word went around that her cancer had returned. It was a ward western dance and dinner. The Lee family came for the dinner and then went home. Lynn’s good friend Cindy told a few of us that the cancer had been found in many of her vital organs and in her lymph nodes. I didn’t really feel like dancing that night. I also no longer felt envious of Lynn Lee.
At this point Lynn chose to go on an oral form of chemotherapy. She started on a small dose and gradually increased the dosage. For some time she tolerated the treatment very well. She was able to care for her family and do some of the things she enjoyed. We all felt a miracle could still happen. But as time went on, Lynn’s treatments intensified, and the cancer continued to grow. Lynn made it known to her doctors that her main purpose in life now was to care for her family. With all the talents and interests that Lynn had, when it came down to what really mattered, she chose to spend what little energy she had left on her family. It was now her time and season to cut out all the extras and get down to the basics. We all have times and seasons. Ours will probably not be the same as our neighbors. It’s not up to us to question why others do not have the same lot in life. Only the Lord knows everyone’s timetable.
So many people cared about Lynn that when she could no longer care for her house and family there was more than enough help offered. As I searched for a way to show my support I decided to help with her older children who were home with her in the afternoons. One day a week I brought in something to entertain them. Often the kids were already busy so I just visited with Lynn. By this time she had pretty well accepted the fact that she was dying. She had lost most of her hair from chemotherapy, she was thin as a skeleton from malnutrition and still the tumors grew. Their large size in her abdomen made her look five months pregnant.
During this time in my life things were not going great for my family. My husband had lost his job and had started his own business. The business had its ups and downs but lately it had just been down. Financially we were in a desperate situation with no hope in sight.
As I visited with Lynn she talked of her hopes and dreams for her family without her. She hoped her husband would remarry and felt her family would be just fine. She also talked a lot about dying. She told me of times that she had prayed to be taken immediately. Her pain was so intense she felt she could bear it no longer. We talked of enduring to the end and of the Lord’s timetable. At this time once again I found myself envious of Lynn. I know it sounds silly, but she saw an end to her pain. She knew it wouldn’t be long until her life was over and her pain was ended. Mine seemed to have no end in sight. As I prayed and pondered these things I realized that we are all given tests of enduring to the end. Sometimes it’s enduring to the end of our life, but more often it is enduring to the end of each test, whether large or small.
The holiday season was coming and our stake choir was preparing for the annual Christmas fireside. Before Lynn’s illness she was a constant supporter of the choir. During Lynn’s surgery and recovery we missed her greatly. For brief periods Lynn had felt well enough to come back to choir, but she had not sung with the same gusto and surety in her voice. The disease had taken a great toll on her. This season Lynn was greatly on the minds of all the choir members. Mary, our choir director, kept us posted on Lynn’s condition and events in her life. As we prepared for a joyous Christmas celebration we felt a sad emptiness knowing that Lynn may never sing with the choir again.
One day Lynn asked a favor of me. She had borrowed a baby swing from her friend Cindy and while using it the seat had become torn. Lynn asked if I could repair it. I told her I would and took the swing home but I wasn’t really sure what I would do about it. Cindy was expecting another baby, but the swing was very old and I wasn’t sure if she wanted to use it again. Also Cindy was a very talented seamstress. I didn’t know if I could do as good a mending job as she could. I thought maybe I would talk to Cindy and see what she wanted done with it. The thought also crossed my mind that now that Lynn had given the swing to me maybe she would no longer worry about it. But she did! Every time I saw her she asked if I had fixed the torn swing. I wasn’t sure what I would do, or how I would find time in my schedule to do it. What a busy season to worry about a baby swing for a child that wasn’t due until March!
One day I got a phone call from Lynn. She needed one last favor. A water pipe had broken in her house flooding almost the entire thing. No one had heard the water running, while they slept, over the noise of Lynn’s oxygen machine. Her husband had ripped the carpet out of their room so she could walk around on a dry floor before he left for work. She needed someone to come get everything up off the floor. I called a few sisters in the ward to come and give me a hand. As we went about rescuing wet toys, clothes and blankets from the flood Lynn rested. She seemed a little sicker and frailer that day so we tried to let her sleep. Before I left I asked if she needed anything else. “No,” she said weakly, “But have you fixed the swing yet?” Why was this swing so important to her? It was as if this was the one last loose end she needed to tie up in this life.
“I have a day set aside next week to do some mending,” I answered. “I promise I’ll do it then.”
I don’t know why I woke up early that Saturday morning, I had intended to sleep in. Everyone else was still sleeping, and I had a million holiday preparations, but I decided to start mending the swing. Somehow I felt an urgency to get it finished and back to Lynn. It mended a lot nicer than I thought it would and I was finished by the time my family awakened. I decided to take it right over to Lynn. The same urgency prompted me not to wait until my normal visit later in the week.
When I went to the door Lori, Lynn’s sister, answered. “Lynn slipped into a coma this morning,” Lori said softly.
“She asked me to mend this baby swing,” I explained. She asked me about it everytime I came, I think it was important to her.”
“Come in and show it to her. I don’t know if she can hear us, but if it was important to her maybe she will know it is done”
I came in and looked at Lynn. Her once long and beautiful hair now stuck up in small pieces from the top of her head. Her face, that at one time had been round and robust, showed every bone of her skull. Her arms and legs, that had propelled her jogging and swimming, lay thin and lifeless on the bed. Her abdomen, which held the constantly growing tumor, was the only part of her body that wasn’t thin and emaciated.
“I brought the swing,” I said lamely. “It came together very well. It’s all mended and I’ll give it to Cindy for you.” I held it up as if she could see. Why hadn’t I mended the swing earlier, when she really could see it? But, maybe she could hear me, I thought. Maybe she did know that I had fixed it and felt some comfort. I realized then that when the spirit prompts, listen and respond. Sometimes there isn’t time to put the prompting off.
That night was our Primary Board Christmas Party at Cindy’s house. I took her the repaired swing, satisfied that I had upheld my commitment to one of Lynn’s last requests. Cindy took the swing and thanked me, having no idea why I chose this time to bring it to her. As we waited for everyone to arrive Cindy and I spoke of Lynn’s condition. Later that evening a call came that Lynn had passed away. The party turned into a melancholy gathering. It wasn’t exactly the holiday celebration we expected, but it was good to be around friends who knew and loved Lynn as we mourned our loss.
Sunday, at church and at home, it seemed as if I was only going through the motions. I knew that Lynn’s time was near, and yet when it actually happened it was so hard! I was glad that it was our stake music fireside that night. Keeping busy seemed to be the best remedy to my ceaseless thoughts. I arrived at choir and was heartened to see many friends. We practiced a few songs, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Then Mary stopped us. “Lynn Lee passed away last night,” Mary announced. “I was with her when she left this earth, and I want you to know that it was a very spiritual experience.” Mary then recounted her story of sitting at the bedside with Lynn’s family and being with her as she drew her last breaths. Tears that had been restrained now flowed freely. We all sat in silence, feeling each other’s grief, until Mary said, “Now lets sing for Lynn!” New energy filled my soul! We would sing our praises to the Lord. Our friend had left this earth, but her spirit was still in our midst. We were determined to give a performance that Lynn would be proud of.
“One small child in a land of a thousand,” we sang. “Cover him, Joseph,” and “Oh holy night,” rang from our lips. We sang of Christ’s birth, and the spirit testified that He lived. We sang of Christ’s life and we received further witness. We sang of Christ’s death and we knew that His sacrifice was for us. We sang like we never had before, and we knew that through Christ, Lynn, and all of us, would live again. Mary often said that if we did our part in preparing our music, angels would attend us where we lacked. Angels certainly were with us that night, and perhaps one was a woman who no longer suffered the pain of the world. Perhaps one of them had a beautiful alto voice that had been silent and unused for some time. Perhaps one of them was free of pain for the first time in many months.
When someone dies at such a young age, Lynn died two months shy of her 32nd birthday, it’s only natural that we ask why. Only the Lord knows why Lynn had such a short earthly mission, but we can wonder. Perhaps Lynn’s family or friends needed to have this experience for their growth and development. Maybe her untimely passing has had an effect on the many acquaintances that knew and admired Lynn. Perhaps her mission was complete or she was needed more in the spirit world. And maybe, just maybe, there was an empty seat in the heavenly choir that only she could fill.