From Here to Eternity
In 1996 my husband Robert felt the Lord’s call to full-time ministry. In September of 1997 we moved to Wales to attend, what was then called The Evangelical Theological College of Wales (now WEST). It was during our time there that Robert’s parents both passed away, as did my father.
It was a very difficult time, and my health continued to affect me quite badly, but in July of 2001 the Lord had seen us through most of our problems and we had both completed our college course. We had for some time been seeking the Lord’s will for our future service and eventually, after much prayer and searching, my husband was called to pastor a church in Chingford, London. During our time there my health was frequently poor, but the Lord made use of me. My children had grown and were both married and I, at last, could seek to serve the Lord in the place that he had decided Robert and I should be.
I could also care for my wonderful Grandson, Tyreese, who I was able to look after for a couple of days a week while his mum and dad were at work. If I had duties at the church, Tyreese would come with me. At the age of two years he must have been among the youngest person to ever attend a Women’s Fellowship Meeting. I was heading up the Sunday School, the Women’s meeting and a youth group, and helping Robert as I was able. I could not have done this if I hadn’t come across a useful diet that went a long way to improving my health. Things were going very well for us and the Lord was granting great blessings.
We had been at Chingford for several years when Robert’s sister, Valerie, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. She refused all medical treatment and wanted to stay at home until the end came. Robert and I decided we could only enable her to do this if we shared her care. So we split our week with Robert staying with Valerie for half the week and me staying with her for the other half. I continued to look after Tyreese for two days of the week in Chingford. This situation was a great strain, but we found that, once again, we could rely on the Lord to sustain us and give us the strength we needed to continue. Valerie passed away after six months. We were privileged to have cared for her throughout this time and to be given time to share the good news of Jesus Christ, when she was up to listening and wanted to hear about Him.
A year, almost to the day, after Valerie’s passing, Robert and I took on the care of my mum. She had never really got over my father’s death, and although she tried really hard to build herself a life without him she never quite managed it. She continued to attend church in Westminster until her health restricted her even in that. She relied on her faith to help her, but after an accident that involved a hip replacement she began suffering from stomach problems. This again led to major surgery and afterwards she was unable to look after herself at home. My sister. Pat, had been the primary carer for my mum for some time, whilst holding down a full time job. But as mum’s care needs became more demanding. Pat was no longer able to continue looking after her, and she reluctantly handed mum’s care over to myself and Robert.
Robert and I had purchased a bungalow in Chatteris in 2007, intended for our retirement. We agreed that the best thing would be for me to bring mum to Chatteris to care for her here, as the manse we were living in was unsuitable and so was mum’s home. Once again Robert split his week – this time between Chingford and Chatteris. This was an especially hard time for Robert as I was unable to support him in the ministry at Chingford, I moved to Chatteris, permanently, to be with mum. This put a great strain on both Robert and myself as we saw each other for only a few days each week. However, once again the Lord gave us the wherewithal to cope with the situation until Robert left the church at Chingford and moved to Chatteris on a permanent basis in 2009. Mum’s health improved and she began to be able to walk short distances with a frame. Sadly she was prone to infection and each infection brought her lower and lower. In December of 2009 mum passed away from Peritonitis as the result of another serious infection.
It became necessary for me to find full-time employment and I began to apply for positions. In February I was interviewed for a position at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for the post of Theatre Support Worker. I was offered the job and after the screens and checks were completed I began my employment with Addenbrooke’s on 12th July 2010.
I really enjoyed the job and made many friends there. I was able to share my faith with a number of people, and this was a great blessing to me. One became my very close friend and began to come to our church. She brought her husband and also her children for some of the services and it was a real blessing to me when she said that she and her husband wanted to be baptised. Sadly, something happened to change her mind. However her husband was baptised in June 2013 and has been with us ever since. We are still very close to her, and it is my constant prayer that she will join with us again at some point.
Having experienced the Lord’s blessing in my life and having been strengthened by Him through many trials over the years I found myself in the remarkable position of being able to say, with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content”, something I could not achieve without the Lord’s great grace being granted to me. In February 2012 I underwent a surgery which was not very successful and I had to revisit theatres for a further three procedures involving a month’s stay in hospital. This was very debilitating and recovery took a long time, but the Lord sustained and strengthened me through it all. I finally returned to work in August 2012.1 was happy to be back at work. Little did I know that I was to be confronted with the biggest trial my faith has yet faced. The Apostle Paul’s words were to be tested to the limit.
In January of 2013, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. When given this diagnosis I was told that the outcome was not expected to be good. Following CT scans, I began a cycle of chemotherapy, attending Addenbrooke’s every three weeks for blood tests, consultation and treatment. My husband Robert was a tremendous support and attended every appointment that I had to make, even the CT scans that are an inevitable part of the ongoing diagnosis and treatment.
I was scheduled for surgery after 3 chemo sessions but, unfortunately, I encountered several setbacks and could not have the surgery at the appointed time. After 6 chemo sessions I finally had a major operation in September, and the surgery was followed by a further two sessions.
I responded well to the chemo – an answer to the many prayers being said for me. In October 2013 I was declared free of cancer and told to return for a check-up in three months time. Robert and I treated ourselves to a cruise and had a wonderful time. However, while we were away I began to get the old symptoms again. When we got home I had another CT Scan which showed a return of the cancer. A new chemo cycle was started the next day and has continued since. I was also told that my cancer was now terminal and that my life expectancy was less than a year. This was a terrible time as I had to inform my children and other family members. I relied heavily on the Lord and the prayers of His people.
I can say with all honesty that I don’t fear death, but I do fear the process of dying and the unknown element of it. Nothing that I can do can overcome this, but I lean on Jesus as my faithful Friend and trust in the Lord as He gives me faith to. The Lord has once again granted me great grace as I have accepted His will for me and rely on the promises of His word. I can say that He has enabled me to know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I know that when my time comes to leave this world I will be going to an eternity of peace and love.
I am compiling a ‘bucket list’, ten things to do; but they are not things to do before I die, they are things to do after I die, when I am with my Lord. Things like: find my family, those that have gone before me; sit down and chat with the Apostle Paul; check my understanding from scripture of what heaven is like and see how close I got. But the number one thing on my ‘bucket list’ is to meet Jesus face to face, and to worship my Saviour and God in the flesh. I’ll have eternity to do the rest.
Jackie was called home to be with her Lord on Sunday 19th April 2015. She can now complete her ‘bucket list’ as she desired.
One of her favourite hymns was Mission Praise N°669 “Then I saw a new heaven and earth”. At Chatteris, we sing that to the tune Farrier’s Gate, you can click on the icon below to download the tune as an MP3. There is an introduction and five verses. Please note that the scansion to verse two is slightly different.