Our second story of hope in our summer series, is from Dorina Lazo Gilmore. Dorina is passionate about helping people navigate grief because she’s journeyed through it herself. Today she’s shared about her tremendous loss and how God brought her through and surprised her on the other side of grief. If you’d like to receive these monthly stories via email, sign up here.
Chasing Hope through a Journey of Grief
I was standing in the community garden on a field trip with my daughter’s second grade class when I received the phone call. My husband’s voice on the other end was hushed, notably different from his typical playful and loud coaching voice.
Results of biopsy. Melanoma cancer. I stood there frozen between the rows of kale and corn, holding a bag of water bottles for the kids. My healthy, athletic husband had cancer. At 40. I felt the wind knocked clear out of me. The fear started to suffocate me.
We had known for weeks about this strange bump on his right hip. I witnessed him experiencing increasing discomfort in that area, but we had believed as many had told us that this was a torn muscle. I had never let my mind wander to the C-word. My first instinct was to sink into a heap right there in the garden and cry. I had no idea what God was doing, but I knew He intended to use our story for His glory. I had to choose to push back the fear and cling to hope.
Clinging to Hope as our Anchor
As the summer progressed, so did my husband’s cancer. After a pet scan we learned that his cancer was in stage four. The cancer had already spread to his lymph nodes and spots were showing on his lungs. We canceled our mission trip to Haiti and our summer vacation. My husband stepped down from his jobs directing a non-profit and coaching at the CrossFit gym. We visited lots of doctors and considered lots of treatments. One way I chose hope in those moments was to bathe myself and my fears in God’s word.
A mentor of mine encouraged me years ago to make a little notebook of scriptures to read when I was fearful or anxious. In the doctor’s office and the hospital room, at home and in the car, I read these truths over my husband. I memorized them. These meditations lifted us out of the mental battle, the worst-case scenario fears that threatened to sink our ship.
The book of Hebrews talks about hope as an anchor: “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:18-19). During these months, as I watched my husband and all our dreams as a couple and family quickly deteriorating, I ran to my Heavenly Father for refuge. While everything felt uncertain, he was my confidence and strength. I knew He had been faithful in the past. My boat was weary and whipped by the stormy waters, floundering in the wind, but surprisingly my anchor was secure.
Hope journeys hand-in-hand with faith. Hope believes in the unseen. Hope is a confident expectation in the loving and deliberate work of the Father. It’s leaning into the pain and trusting the outcome. My husband took a giant leap into Heaven on September 9, 2014. That was certainly not the outcome I prayed for or expected.'Hope is a confident expectation in the loving and deliberate work of the Father.' @DorinaGilmore as featured in a summer series 'Stories of Hope' hosted by @shaunaletellierClick To Tweet
After my husband’s death, I wrestled with God. Hundreds of people across the globe had prayed for my husband’s healing, and it didn’t come. But God was patient with me. If He could handle the bold prayers of Paul, the emotional prayers of David, and the heart cries of Job, then He could handle my doubting, imperfect, raw prayers.
Over time, I was reminded that just because we pray doesn’t mean we get our way. We don’t put in a certain amount of time on the prayer time clock to gain a certain outcome. In fact, the purpose of prayer is not to persuade God to do things our way; it’s to draw close to the Heavenly Father and sit in His presence. There in His presence, I found tender shoots of hope.'The purpose of prayer is not to persuade God to do things our way; it’s to draw close to the Heavenly Father and sit in His presence. There in His presence, I found tender shoots of hope.' by @DorinaGilmore in 'Stories of Hope' hosted by @shaunaletellierClick To Tweet
Grieving with Hope
I know I cling to a different kind of hope than many people have. My grief is different from someone who does not have faith because I grieve with hope. I grieve believing I will see my Ericlee in the future. I draw hope from the knowledge that if we commit our lives to following Jesus Christ and share Him with others, our separation from loved ones on earth through death will only be temporary.
I have always loved the Bible story of Ruth. It’s a story of redemption. A story of beauty from ashes. An unexpected love story. A story of hope. Ruth takes refuge under the wings of God (Ruth 2:12), and He provides miraculously for her. When her husband dies, she remains loyal to her mother-in-law and takes a bold step to follow the God of Israel. The radical choice she makes to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, helps her break loose from the chains of poverty. Through her hard work and integrity, she gains not just food but also the attention of a man named Boaz.
Not by accident I found myself reading the book of Ruth in the months following my husband’s death when I was learning to navigate my own grief. Although I had studied the book before, it gained new meaning for me as a widow. I read the story with fresh eyes and discovered something distinct: Ruth grieves with hope. Once a worshipper of pagan gods, she steps into God’s plan for her future. She experiences redemption and is grafted into the family tree of Jesus Christ. Her choices also bring hope and new life for her mother-in-law Naomi.
I began to pray that God would help me to live with courage like Ruth. Three years ago, through a wild weaving together of threads in my life, I married one of my late husband’s best friends, Shawn. He was a single friend who we had prayed for through the years. I believed God had a special woman for Shawn to marry one day. I never imagined it would be me!
Shawn has courageously walked through grief with my daughters and me. He has joined us in the daily dance of joy and pain. He has provided comfort, companionship and confidence where we needed it most. My girls love him as their new daddy. His presence in our lives is a daily reminder that we serve a God of hope who always holds our future in His hands.'Our God of hope always holds our future in His hands.' by @dorinagilmore in the summer series 'Stories of Hope' hosted by @shaunaletellierClick To Tweet
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the author of two Bible studies, Glory Chasers and Flourishing Together. She is also published children’s book author, speaker, blogger, runner, justice seeker, and mama to three active girls – ages 7, 10 and 13. Dorina is passionate about helping people navigate grief and flourish in their callings. Connect with Dorina at www.DorinaGilmore.com or on her Facebook author page. You can also find her sharing about daily life on Instagram as @DorinaGilmore.