By Harold Tabor
It was June 10, 1996 at 1:25 A.M. when Dorothy May Corbin Tabor took her last breath and rested in peace from this life. We had known since late summer 1995 that she had a medical problem. She thought it was from her long use of arthritis medicine. Her doctor, who had been treating her for about ten years, agreed it could be a possible side effect from her strong medicine. But when symptoms persisted, it was necessary for a specialist (a gastroenterologist) to perform a endoscopy. I was present when the doctor began to take four biopsies. The doctor immediately suggested that a surgeon see the pictures. The surgeon talked to us about surgery after Thanksgiving. After the surgery, the surgeon confirmed stomach cancer (Adenocarcigoma of the stomach). He also informed me that it had metastasis into the lower abdomen. While still in the hospital, I asked the surgeon, knowing her condition, how long does she have to live. He said about six months. Dotty and I made the decision not to pursue any cancer treatments. She expressed her feelings that she preferred quality of life for the rest of her time in comparison with quantity of life. She did try an herbal tea that did help for a while. But it is reserved for us to die (Heb 9:27). The question is: How will you handle the question of death?
Trust in the Lord
For the next three months, Dotty seemed to do fine. During Spring break in March, we vacationed together in North Carolina. After the trip, she began to experience swelling of the abdomen. During April and again in May, large amounts of retained fluid had to be removed from her abdomen. In May it was evident that a cancerous mass had appeared in her abdomen. She enrolled in Hospice while in the hospital. Dotty’s only request was that she remain pain free. That promise was kept! I have had two experiences with Hospice during the last six years. My father also had cancer and passed away in our home. Knowing that death is coming can make you fearful or give you confidence. Dotty’s trust was in the Lord! It was our periods of prayer together that helped prepare us for the coming experiences.
O yes, we had our times of grief. I remember on two occasions where we stood holding one another and crying. I am sure that Dotty prayed alone for strength as well as the times that I did. There is a time to weep and a time to mourn (Eccl. 3:4). Why is it that many of my brethren think only of death with weeping and mourning? Are we only looking backwards? We had six months to weep and mourn. And we did! Remember when David’s child by Bathsheba was very sick. While the child was alive, David fasted and wept all night upon the earth. He did this for seven days. And the child died. When David knew that the child was dead, he arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel; and went to worship the Lord. When asked about his actions, David replied; “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, `Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:22-23, NKIV). That was our experience.
Waiting on the Lord
Robert and Arlene Harkrider visited our home. We had hoped that Robert would do us the honor of conducting the service. While Robert and I walked outside, Dotty said to Arlene, “I am at peace. I am just waiting on the Lord.
Whenever his time for me comes is my time. Then you all will have to come to me.” How many faithful Christians really want the Lord to come? Are we ready to stand be-fore the throne of God? “It is far better to be with the Lord” (Phil 1:23). Would any faithful Christian really want his spouse to be allowed to return to live with us here on this earth, knowing the joy, peace, and lack of pain on the other side in “Abraham’s bosom”?
The death of a loved one can be
compared to a departing sailboat.
We stand on the shore and watch as the boat
becomes smaller and smaller until it is a speck of
finally disappearing completely from sight;
and we say, “She’s gone!”
Where has the boat gone?
Gone only from our sight.
She is just as real as she was before she left us,
we just can no longer see her
with our eyes.
As we are saying, “She’s gone!” On the opposite shore others are
joyfully shouting, “Here she comes!”
Yes, the last week was hard. To see your spouse of almost thirty-nine years become weaker and weaker, becoming bedfast, and hardly able to do anything for herself, is extremely difficult. I took care of her every need for five weeks. Her mother and sister came to help the last (sixth) week. For their help, I am very thankful. There were signposts that death was near, yet you must be patient and wait for the Lord’s time. Tuesday (June 4) Dotty’s blood pressure began to drop. “How long will she last?” I asked the nurse? She replied, “A couple of days, probably.” When Friday came, the only change was her blood pressure dropping some more. By Sunday evening, it was time to say “good-bye.”
Dotty’s family said their last words to Dotty in the evening. I gave Dotty her pain medication and her mother came into the room. She stood beside the bed and rubbed her arm and cheek and said, “See you in heaven.” I, too, said my good-bye, kissed her, and left the room. At 1 A.M., I heard her breathing on a baby monitor becoming slower and slower. I went to be by her side. At 1:25 A. M., Dotty took her last breath.
Our marriage of thirty-eight years eleven months and ten days came to an end (Rom 7:24).
Have you made plans for this experience? I am surprised at how many people do not plan ahead by purchasing cemetery plots/crypts, caskets, making a list of people to call, who to asked to help in various ways, what kind of music to play, who will speak at the service, and where will the service be conducted.
Brother Franklin T. Puckett baptized me into Christ on Mother’s Day at the age of 14. He also performed our wedding in Atlanta on June 30, 1957. It was only fitting for the service to be in Puckett Auditorium on the campus of Florida College where we both had attended and worked. There were over 200 in attendance and numerous flowers. All our family was present. Brother Ferrell Jenkins spoke for us and did a superb job.
How Long Will You Mourn?
There is definitely a period of adjustment. My sons (Timothy and John) and daughters-in-law (Sherri and Anne) were with me the rest of the week. I made it a point to leave town for the next few weeks. I believe that gave me time away from our home to begin making that adjustment. For those who have to stay home with all the things of their spouse still around them, it may prolong the period of adjustment. We had already planned what my daughters-in-law and I would keep and what to give away. It helped not to have to do those things. The Old Testament gives many illustrations: for a father seven days (Gen 50:10); Moses thirty days (Gen. 34:8) and was considered to be extraordinary in length. King Saul (1 Sam. 31:13) seven days; Anna suggests the idea of a lifelong widow-hood of mourning (Luke 2:36-37). I know that the first week is hard and the following weeks get better. It is all in how the individual, both male and female, handle their grief. After being so focused on taking care of your loved one for a length of time, you do not think as clearly about the everyday affairs of life. But, certainly after a month or so depending on how you plan and handle things, you ought to begin a normal life of widow or widower/hood.
Eventually one must begin a regular schedule alone. There will be those things that trigger moments of reflections, like the magnetic strip with a poem on the refrigerator. I found it for the first time on a Sunday evening after worship. It said:
You Are Loved.
This is just a little note
to brighten up your way,
to remind you that
you’re truly loved
each minute of the day.
This is my prayer
for you today
that God’s love
you’ll clearly see;
and may He multiply
back, to you
Yes, I cried the rest of the evening and most of Monday. This will tell you the kind of marital relationship we had. There are many poems that will help you through bereavement and your own personal experiences. Several Christian women have already shared their poems with me that helped them.
A Final Tribute
I appreciate the over 130 cards that I have received since the funeral service. And I appreciate very much the Book Memorials of over $1,000 given in her memory. But I am moved most by the numerous cards with personal notes and letters about Dotty. The following statements are in the words of others: “There was not anyone that didn’t like Dotty.” “I liked Dotty from the first time I met her.” “Dotty was a very special lady and attractive and lovely lady. She came as close to the worthy woman description as anyone I have known. She was a real sweetheart, and I’m blessed by having known her.” “Dotty was a very special woman and a wonderful Christian example. We will treasure our memories of the time spent here. She was a great influence in lots of lives.” “You have had the privilege of sharing life with a wonderful Christian woman. You have been blessed as have your sons. Many of the qualities of the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians come to mind when thinking of her and our association during the time we taught the five and six year olds.” “She did her work well and didn’t involve herself in the `polities and gossip’ that went on around her.” “She practiced the saying if you cannot say anything nice about someone, then do not say anything at all.”
There were two special statements that I personally think give proper tribute to Dorothy. The first was by a preacher and one of two who influenced her coming to college where we met. He said, “She was quiet but a companion of strength, of spirituality, and of genuine concern. I have no doubts that she served you faithfully in the same way she served God. I am confident that she loved you, that she helped you, and that she complemented you in all of your godly pursuits. She was always there both as a friend and a critic, as a mother and example to your children, and as a housewife and keeper of the home. I think of her as a worthy woman whose value was far above rubies whose value, I’m certain, has increased in your estimate and in the estimate of your children since her death last month.”
The second is from my cousin. “Dotty was truly a lovely and gracious lady. We will miss her very much. . .and she is at peace. Bless you for the constant and loving care you gave her. The cycle of life is so real, so difficult. Praise God that we know how the story really ends. Hold on to His unchanging hand!”
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 20, p. 8-9
October 17, 1996