“Trusting God in the Face of Cancer” shared the first part of Stephanie and Jason Weathers’ faith journey, and it’s already one of the most highly-read posts on this blog. This week, we conclude their powerful story.
Please note that the conclusion of this story is painful, and reader discretion is advised if you know someone who has been removed from life support. However, beyond the painful details, at its heart, this story is a testament to the God who gives us grace when we are suffering and at our weakest.
Letting Go of Jason
At age 23, Jason Weathers had promised his bride, Stephanie, that death was the only thing that could part them. Only ten years later, Jason’s promise was being fulfilled, far sooner than he or Stephanie ever imagined.
|Final portrait with the kids|
After a seven-month battle with leukemia, Jason was lying in a hospital bed without any brain activity. Although Stephanie had believed for his healing since his diagnosis, she now realized that Jason would be healed, but it was going to happen in Heaven.
Stephanie knew that Jason’s death would traumatize his body – the doctor had gravely warned her about that – but it was impossible for her to prepare for what it would do to her heart.
Not long after the doctor removed Jason from life support, his body began breaking down, gasping, trembling uncontrollably. Stephanie watched in helpless horror as death took her husband, that gentle giant, and shook him like a rag doll for hours.
Morning turned to afternoon, and afternoon turned to dusk. Just before the sun went down, while a team of medical personnel scurried about the room; Stephanie found herself transfixed on the sunset outside the hospital window. Beyond her husband’s dying body, a brilliant splash of colors illuminated the sky as the sun sank behind the pine trees.
Stephanie quietly lost her composure, and tears began rolling down her cheeks as the sun bid farewell to the sky. In that lonely moment, she stared out the window and thought, “The sun is setting on my marriage, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”
Then, an hour and a half after the sky turned black, Jason stopped breathing. “And that last breath that he took,” she says, with her voice shaking, “- when it was over, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a special time to be there when he met Jesus, to be a part of that very moment when my husband was in the presence of the Lord.”
Life without Jason
In the months following Jason’s death, Stephanie was surrounded by the love and support of family and friends, but there were some wounds in her heart that only Jesus could heal.
|Smiling through the exhaustion|
Each night, after putting the kids to bed, a wave of despair crashed over Stephanie. It was hard enough raising three kids under age six, but to do it without Jason seemed impossible. All of her life, she had casually espoused the view that kids were best raised by a mother and a father. Now her kids were those kids, the ones being raised by a single mom.
She grieved for her children, and she grieved for herself. Late into the night, she searched the house for any remnant of him – especially anything he had written. When she found something, she would curl up in the recliner to read it and then weep as she read it over and over again. And when she eventually came to the point where she could find nothing else to read, she wept with frustration that Jason had not written more.
She longed to hear Jason’s voice, but instead, she heard him dying, heaving and gasping in his last moments. When she closed her eyes, she saw his body thrashing about, tortured by death. Even the smell of his hospital room haunted her nose. She begged God for mercy, to take away the memories and grief, to give her strength to raise three children alone.
And finally, Stephanie would fall asleep exhausted each night, only to wake up the next morning to see three little faces needing their mommy. She didn’t even want to get out of bed.
“God,” she would whisper, morning after morning, “I don’t understand You, but I know You’re sovereign.”
Healing for Stephanie
In order to survive the sleepless nights of mental torture, Stephanie did the only thing she knew to do: she told herself the truth.
She repeated God’s promises out loud, night after night, combating despair with the beauty of scripture. For months, the scriptures became her central weapon in reclaiming her imagination, her sleep, and her sanity. And over time, she began to believe, like never before, in the sovereign goodness of God, who works all things – even death – for good.
As she began to emerge from despair, she also experienced healing from the images of Jason’s last moments, though she doesn’t even know when that happened. She just knows that one day, she couldn’t remember the last time she had thought of Jason’s last hours. In fact, she could hardly remember the horrible details at all – God had erased them.
And God gave her an image of hope which she still holds onto today. As she describes it, He showed her that “life is like a tapestry. When you stand too close to it, it’s not very pretty. But if you’ll step away and see the full picture, you’ll see God’s beautiful artwork. It’s just that pain has a way of bringing us too close to the tapestry.”
Three years later, Stephanie is quietly celebrating the little victories: the moments when she senses that Jason, as a part of that “great cloud of witnesses,” sees his children growing in the Lord; the times when Anna Lea, age nine, asks Stephanie profound questions about Jason’s death; or when Ally, age three, explains that her daddy lives on the beach with Jesus.
And there are still moments of grief: learning that Jon Brent, now six, can’t remember Jason anymore; the days when Anna Lea cries over not having a daddy like all her friends; and the fact that Stephanie has simply had to let go of what might-have-been.
But, as Stephanie puts it, the dawn is finally breaking. She can see the sun on the horizon, and she is leading her family with faith in a sovereign God – the One about whom Jason wrote, in his final months,
I know my God is great, and I know His plan and purpose for my life is perfect. I know this bend in the road is a part of that perfect plan. I may never know why, this side of Heaven, but I rest assured, because He is omnipotent God. All glory be to Him who is above all, knows all, and is all!