And so it was that at 9:55 p.m. on March 6, 2017, Marissa Alice Bundy, brave warrior princess, put down her sword and crossed over into glory to meet her Savior face to face.
I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the battle or the bravery or the ending. I want to remember every part of the story–from first to final breath.
Marissa’s pain had increased day by day, and her knees began to buckle when she walked. We were supposed to head to Duke for scans on Tuesday and a visit with the oncologist on Wednesday. But when I explained her new symptoms, her doctor admitted her directly to the hospital to determine the cause of her loss of mobility. By the time we got there, she could barely walk even with assistance.
They thought perhaps a tumor was pressing on her spine, so they did a few tests. One painful test, a lumbar puncture, was done to test the fluid in the spine. On Wednesday she had been scheduled to see her doctor and begin a new immunotherapy drug. But instead we waited in the hospital for test results. Her pain increased and she lost more of her mobility while we waited.
On Thursday morning, her oncologist came into her room with the results. She’s brilliant and she’s tough, but she cried when she told us that the cancer was in her spinal fluid, the most difficult cancer to treat. Since Marissa’s cancer was in so many other places, we were out of options.
Marissa asked the doctor how long she would have and the answer was weeks at best. I watched her face. I expected sadness and even despair, but what I saw was relief. She told me later her first emotion was peace, and I could see a determination to finish her fight well. She spoke with joy of heaven. We talked about the most important things she wanted to do before she took that journey.
She wanted to marry Daniel. She wanted to see her Grandma. She wanted to sort through all of her things and give them away to people she loved. She wanted to say good-bye.
The rest of the day was spent trying to get her pain managed for going home. They contacted hospice to meet us there, and we headed out. By the time we got home, she was sleeping almost all the time. She could respond to some questions, but not really talk.
She was surrounded by love. I will never forget the tenderness of her brothers helping her into her hospital bed or her sisters giving her sips of water. Or of Daniel, faithful and sweet, continually encouraging her.
She rallied some for some family visitors on Sunday, but mostly she was fading away. On Sunday night, Daniel placed a beautiful ring on her left hand.
Through the night she had some agitation, and the nurse came early Monday morning to increase her pain pump. On the day of her home-going, we gathered around her. We sang to her. We prayed for her. We told stories. We read God’s words to her. Over and over, we called out: “We love you, Rissa! We are so proud of you! You have finished your race!” We talked of heaven and her Savior. We told her it was okay to stop fighting, to let go.
As her breathing became more labored, we increased our encouragements. We took turns expressing our love and thankfulness for her. We urged her on.
I felt the intensity of God’s reality and the secure hope of His salvation.
Eventually her breath became more shallow and we gathered closer. Daniel moved to the head of the bed and kissed her head. And finally she relaxed.
Finally, she was free.
And grief was there. It gripped us all. Father, mother, sister, brother, beloved one–we sobbed. We wept. We sorrowed deep.
Oh, the pain of missing her. Oh, the ache that fills our hearts.
But there is joy. There is goodness. There is light.
There is even beauty in this darkest night.
Because of the Lamb! The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! She is with Him now in glory, forever with her Lord. She fell asleep in pain and woke in glory!
Her battle is won!
She’s safely home in the arms of Jesus.