On Tuesday I missed my first flight ever. The shuttle I had per-arranged and pre-paid got my pick up location wrong and arrived and hour and a half after the scheduled time. Thankfully I could get on another flight soon after from Kansas City, Missouri to Miami, Florida.
Miami greeted me with a beautiful warm sunny day. Perfect beach weather! What does a girl do on her first day in Miami? Shopping and a swim at the beach of course. Miami beach goes for miles and miles with miles of people to fill it, it’s a place where anything goes and there’s no end to the assortment of characters on the scene. The water was a little cool for my liking but nevertheless it was very refreshing on a hot and humid day – not unlike Perth (minus the humidity).
On Friday I did a full day tour to the Everglades, around Miami city and Little Havanna, ending with a cruise around the Biscayne Bay where you’ll see many opulent homes owned by the rich and famous. At the Everglades, wild alligator sightings is a guarantee. They are everywhere – no exaggeration. The tour included a trip out on the Everglades (meaning “river of grass”) on an airboat. It was a short 30min trip but it was amazing!
This morning I picked up a hire car and on my way out of Miami I stopped at the Flamingo Gardens. With the weather threatening to rain any minute, I was fortunate to have the whole park to myself for most of the time. Flamingo Gardens is a non-for-profit organization that care for injured animals that can’t be released back into the wild. They do a lot of great work and if you like birds, they have some amazing birds to see including the bald eagle, owls, and as the name suggests, flamingos, as well as bobcats, otters (which I didn’t get to see because they were curled up in the couch watching a movie – it was just that kind of weather), more alligators and panthers. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by.
After a 4 hour drive, I am now in Venice for a brief overnight stay before driving another 2 hours to Tampa tomorrow. I’ll spend 6 days in Tampa where I’ll attend a Healing Week with Ellel Ministries. Continuing to keep an open mind and open heart for healing and transformation. God is good!
Before I depart Venice tomorrow, I’ve booked myself in for a massage at the Warm Mineral Springs Spa which is the largest warm water mineral spring in the world and is known as the fountain of youth. What are you up to tomorrow?
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT)
Instead of worrying about life’s troubles, sometimes we just need to sit at the feet of Jesus.
I am writing from the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve been here for 5 days. Before that I spent 4 days in Honolulu. When I was preparing for this trip, I was worried about travelling on my own in a new country for 10 weeks. But I’ve discovered that I needn’t have worried. Although its only the beginning of my trip, God has clearly put on my path the resources and people I needed and I have not once felt alone, by either making new friends or being aware of how close He is.
My time in Honolulu was a time just to rest, enjoy being in a new place and soak up the island atmosphere. My first night in Kansas was not the best start. The hotel I checked in to was awful. It smelt bad, the staff were rude, the entrance and hallway reminded me of a hospital. I arrived at 2am so I couldn’t find anywhere else to stay at that hour. I barely slept because it felt dirty – I ended up sleeping in my sleeping bag under the sheets. The next day i checked out, got a refund and checked into another hotel down the road… Such a relief! The best part is that I quickly befriended one of the reception staff there who happened to be an ihopper and has graciously shown me around, introduced me to the IHOP campuses and kept me company during my week in Kansas. Someone shared with me an experience they had on their travels where they felt God put people on their path that seemed to be just what was needed at the time. It’s strange that they said that to me the night before I left, because I really feel that this is what He has provided me from the moment I departed Australia, everywhere I have gone.
This trip for me is about seeking God, finding new direction in my life, having new experiences and honouring Cam. To me, this includes sharing Cam with people who never had the privilege of meeting him. And although he’s no longer here with us, he continues to impact people which is just amazing and of course a testimony to who he was. I can’t get enough of sharing Cam and our story. I love seeing how people are impacted, encouraged and inspired by it. A couple I met here in Kansas wrote me a lovely note after I told them our story. Here is some of what it said:
You have awakened something in me I have not had in a long time, the ability to weep… Cameron seemed like such an amazing man. When I think of him I got Psalm 116:15-16: The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die. O LORD, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains.
Last year while Cam was having chemo, we spent hours every day seeking a healing miracle from God. We took every opportunity presented to us to have prayer. On one occasion, the gentleman praying for us prophesied that together Cam and I would do great things for the Lord. Being desperate for healing, we hung onto that and other things spoken over us and dreams we had and turned it what we wanted to hear and believe – that Cam would live. Those words stuck with me, especially after he died. When anger and confusion set in, I questioned in my mind and God why this gentleman would say that. Did it really come from God or was it just a nice thing to say? Something warm and fuzzy that seemed appropriate for him to say but didn’t really mean anything? It’s been on my mind a lot since Cam died. After I received that note, it dawned on me that we are doing works for the Lord, just not in the way I thought at the time. By sharing our story, Cam is still impacting people and doing great things for God. It was a revelation that released a lot of uncertainty and showed me more of God’s steadfast and loyal character – that He keeps His promises.
This time next week I’ll be in Hawaii on route to a long list of destinations in America. From our very first Skype chat, Cam talked about his desire to go back to the US. After that conversation, he planted a seed in my heart and for our entire short-lived relationship we talked frequently about it and tried a few times to plan a trip to the US together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
It was still in my heart to go to America after Cam died so I’m traveling there on my own for 10 weeks. Well, not on my own, I know that God will be with me. I feel an assortment of emotions. Excited, of course, to be travelling and seeing a new country; terrified to be travelling alone yet I’m also peaceful; I have a sense of relief to finally go on the trip Cam and I talked about so much; and sad that Cam won’t be with me. It’s strange actually, before Cam passed away, I had a dream that I was planning to travel to America on my own. I dismissed it at the time because I believed that Cam would live.
The month before Cam passed, he asked me to scatter some of his ashes at Pretty Place in South Carolina where he worked at the YMCA Camp for three summers many years ago. He had such fond memories of his time there and when he showed me a picture of Pretty Place, I could see why he loved it. So during this trip, I will be going to Pretty Place with Cam’s ashes to honour his wish.
I don’t expect to get complete closure by the end of the trip, but I do feel that it will be the start of letting go of the grief. Since Cam passed, I have obviously experienced loss. But feeling loss is also a choice. Yes, when you lose someone you love, you automatically have a sense of loss. We also need to allow ourselves to feel the loss. This may mean wallowing in self-pity for a time (not forever), crying when you need to, yell and scream (preferably in a private place away from the ears of the public – it could look a little strange), having time alone, spending time with people who you know naturally give you comfort, spending time away in a new place, revisiting old places where memories are strong, or you might pour out your heart to God or someone you trust and say “This hurts. It’s not fair. This is not what I hoped and prayed for and yet it happened. I just don’t understand why.” All these things I have been doing to allow myself to feel the pain and loss but now it’s time to start letting go. It will take time. How much time? Who knows. However much time is necessary.
The phrase I have heard the most since Cam died is “time heals.” I don’t believe this is a true statement. If I ignore what I feel, avoid the pain and don’t face the grief, things will only get worse as time passes. I am responsible for creating an environment for myself for healing and I need to work at it. I need to set goals for myself and recognise milestones when I feel I’ve taken a step forward no matter how small. Time heals, but I’ve got work to do too, and with God’s help, the pain will come to an end.
“… The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalm 30:5 MSG)
Life. Everyday I find something that blows my mind, takes me by surprise or goes beyond my imagination of possibilities. Never for a moment in my short life did I imagine I’d be a 25-year-old widow. In the space of one year, I went from being single to engaged to married to widowed. To reflect on the long list of events that happened during that same year, blows my mind. If it weren’t for the love in my heart reminding me of Cam’s presence in my life and the pain in my soul reminding me of Cam’s absence, I feel like I’ve lived someone else’s life. Or it’s like I’ve watched a really sad movie that moved me, leaving me with feeling a mixture of warmth and sadness and longing. I almost don’t believe this is my story, my life, my romantic drama movie. It’s a strange sensation.
To recount, here’s a brief snapshot of the short time Cam and I spent together:
Aug 2010 – we began dating, well “Skype dating” actually. I was in Queensland when Cam and I got back in touch and were taken by complete surprise at the intensity of the love that quickly bloomed between us. A few weeks later, I decided to move to Perth to be with Cam.
Oct 2010 – Cam proposed to me. Crazy? A bit hasty you say? I can understand that people would see it that way and that’s fine. But Cam and I were living in a different reality to most normal crazy-in-love-couples. We didn’t know how much time we would have together. He was in remission at the time. We had hope that a miracle would happen of course, but Cam was upfront in telling me the doctor’s prognosis was 6 months to 2 years. It didn’t matter to me. Any amount of time with this incredible man was worth it to me. I loved him and I wanted to be with him for every possible second. It was as simple as that. Cam proposed with a beautiful song he had written and played for me at Cottesloe Beach. It was the most stunning day I’ve ever seen in Perth – 8 o’clock in the morning, perfect temperature, cloudless blue sky, no wind, the water was completely flat and dazzling under the warm sun. Beautiful. Loving. Intentional. Perfect. All that Cam was to me.
Nov 2010 – I moved to Perth. Cam flew over to Queensland where we spent a week planning our wedding that was to be held in Brisbane in January 2011. We then took two weeks to drive from Brisbane to Melbourne and across the Nullabor to Perth. It was our time to get to know each other when in each other’s presence. We spent hours almost every night talking on Skype for months before then, but we considered this time as another layer of getting to know each other. So fiancé, do you like, um, stuff?
Dec 2010 – Following routine blood tests, I got my first hit of bad news while Cam received it for the umpteenth time. The cancer activity in Cam’s body was active again. Chemo treatment was imminent. It was just a matter of waiting. Waiting for a miracle or waiting for cancer activity to continue to climb and reach a certain level before a chemo trial could start.
Jan 2011 – Pain and tiredness was on the increase for Cam. It reached the point where we went to emergency at Charlie’s a few times in January. I think it was the first time Cam was in hospital when we watched on TV the tragic news of the floods in South West Queensland. We also watched our wedding reception venue literally get washed down the Brisbane River (search for Drift Restaurant on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean). Cam was in too much pain to travel, our wedding reception sunk to the bottom of a river and Brisbane city was underwater – perhaps not a good time or place for a wedding. While seeing the funny side of all this (not many people can say their wedding drifted downstream), we decided to cancel our Brisbane wedding and move it to Perth in February.
Feb 2011 – Chemo trial starts. We didn’t get the miracle we were hoping for. Looking back, I was probably a little naive and in denial but I so desperately wanted to be optimistic and “think positive” and will Cam’s body back to health. A tumour on his back had grown large enough to feel it and pain constantly had to be managed with drugs. He was in no state to enjoy our marital celebrations so we again decided to postpone the February wedding and wait until he was feeling better to schedule another date. It was this same day that we cancelled the wedding that I had my first car accident on my way home after visiting Cam in hospital. It wasn’t the best day.
Mar 2011 – I think it was this month that I started to intentionally open my heart to God. Chemo continued and the cancer levels decreased. My heart softened to God’s love and Cam and I grew closer, our love and relationship grew deeper. All the while I was still resisting, challenging Cam with questions, trying to used logic to understand what it meant to have “relationship” with God. What is a “believer” anyway? I also started working again. And Cam started going to the Healing Rooms in Vic Park 2 or 3 times per week. We began to put all our energy into seeking God and a healing miracle.
Apr 2011 – I gave in. I gave in to God, fell in love with Jesus and I finally “got it”. I finally understood what He did for us on the cross. So I was baptised on 17 April. Yay! The most memorable part of that awesome day, was Cam by my side holding my hand in the freezing water, as I declared my love for Jesus. I really think this was the happiest time we shared. We were so smitten and so excited to be seeking God together, building each other up in our faith (and exploring my newfound faith), pushing the boundaries of our relationship and our relationship with God. If I could go back to just one moment in time with Cam, it would be somewhere around this time. We also set a new date for our wedding on 2 July.
May 2011 – Cam had been in hospital a couple of times after chemo started with digestive problems. But it was around May I think that the blood tests indicated that the chemo wasn’t working because cancer levels started to increase. We continued to put all our trust and faith in God and didn’t let bad results discourage us from pursuing healing.
June 2011 – Blood test results went from bad to worse. Tumour pain was rapidly getting worse. Two weeks before our wedding, Cam’s doctor gave a prognosis of 2 weeks to 2 months. The very next day, I quit my job.
July 2011 – I was given a gift. A husband. An amazing, loving, adoring, generous, inspirational, beautiful husband. I am the luckiest woman in all history to become Cam’s wife. Some women don’t like the idea of losing their identity when they marry. I personally love being identified as Cam’s wife. We had a lovely wedding, surrounded by so many amazing, loyal and wonderful family and friends. Soon after our wedding, we had to have some serious and difficult conversations. Newlyweds should not have the “what if I die” conversations. We wanted to remain hopeful and also be realistic so it was a necessary conversation but so incredibly difficult. Mind you, when I say serious, Cam’s idea of serious was to suggest putting roof racks on the Mustang to transport his casket. Cute. Not long after that, Cam woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain and breathing difficulties so I took him up to emergency. Doctors checked him out, breathing got better, and they discharged him within a few hours. The next night the same thing happened only it was much worse and much more frightening for us. He was in way too much pain for me to even drive him to emergency so I called an ambulance. We thought that would be the trip to the hospital where he wouldn’t come out again. But somehow, miraculously, he became just well enough to be discharged a week later with heavy doses of hydromorphone manage the perpetual pain. After he was discharged, we were graciously able to have a honeymoon away in Margaret River for a week. Memories for which I will be ever-grateful.
Aug 2011 – Immediately after our return from Margaret River, Cam went back into hospital. Two weeks later, I held my darling husband’s hand as he took his last breath. My heart was completely and utterly shattered. And I became angry with God.
Since then, the days have been hazy. I’ve been living in a cloud of grief that is sometimes so overwhelming that I can’t breathe. It’s been hard, really hard. It still is. And at times very dark and lonely. But it hasn’t been all bad. I know with absolute certainty it’s only with God’s guidance, love and grace that I have been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. If all this had happened two years ago, before I knew God, well, I don’t even want to think about that. Thankfully, I never have to.