On the morning of June 11, 2015, I prayed the most difficult prayer of my entire life. My request: Lord please heal our daughter, KaShanta or take her home to be with You because I can no longer stand to watch her suffer. I'd grown weary of telling her to hold on. She fought such and excellent fight! So much happened to my princess; I just wanted her to be pain-free at this point. She did better as long as she knew I was in close proximity. In the emergency room, she suffered more because they reversed the effects of the drugs in her system and woke up all the pain. I had to tell them to give her oxygen back. Most were very sensitive - absolutely wonderful. A few were not.
I felt so guilty and regretted ever calling the ambulance for several reasons. We were not supposed to call them because she was on hospice, but her Dad insisted because it was so disturbing for both of us. Her body was still warm but she struggled to breathe and was making a strange - but familiar sound. However, we were unable to arouse her.
When Pastor Lisa arrived at the emergency room, I stood in the corner, because I did not want Shan to know I was crying. I felt as if the only thing holding me together was my skin. She never knew that I released her to the Lord during that time, because I didn't want her to think that I could ever give up on her. When the nurse was finally able to give her narcotics to dull the pain again, (seemed like forever and a day) they sent her back home via ambulance. I was happy to be going back home.
The last words I heard Shan scream were, "Stop, stop, stop!" to the attendants because she thought they were taking her oxygen again. My voice comforted her as I explained that they were only exchanging the oxygenators. That settled her, but she never opened her eyes again nor said another word - ever. I put in a video that we liked with uplifting gospel songs and wiped her tears. I could not stay in the room this time - just constantly went in and out. I knew she was leaving and could not stand to watch it.
When I told her a few hours later that her sister-momma, (Milia) was on her way with her girls from San Antonio, she turned her head in my direction in response. I could tell it made her very happy. Shan wanted to look pretty for her daughters - never wanted them to see her looking undone. I only had to carefully braid the front edges of her beautiful and easy grade of thick hair. I put a little gloss on her lips and told her how beautiful she was. I could just hear her saying, "Mama, you are so biased." "Perhaps; but others agreed with me" - was always my response to that statement. The girls and Milia (through no-fault of her own), were ten minutes too late. I saw no more breaths taken after 7:50 p.m that Thursday so I called Milia to see where they were. They had just pulled up. Milia was the first in and was greeted by her dad and I at the door. She knew from the look on my face that something was wrong so she grabbed me by the hand. I was hoping that she could arouse Shan by her voice. It didn't happen. I regretted that they were unable to say good-bye though.
I rehearsed the above to escort you to this point. Shan's friend, Silke in Germany had a dream that day, which was filled with so many dynamics. Silke and I became friends when Ashlynn, my granddaughter was a toddler and Shan's family was residing in Germany. Silke was a most trusted babysitter. Ashlynn and I spent a lot of time at their place because of Shan's long hours working in security. They are so very dear to us.
This was sent to me by Silke's sister, Petra, another dear German friend: "The morning when I called Silke to tell her about KaShanta's transition, I had woken her up. Silke usually doesn't remember her dreams. But since I had just woken her up, she did remember. She dreamt that she saw you (Patrick) and KaShanta in a beautiful garden with lots of beautiful red apples - there were just a few spoiled ones. The way I imagined the scene from what Silke told me, it was a very green garden with all these apple trees. You and KaShanta told Silke not to be sad that 'all will be ok' but never got around to say why because I woke her up. I was flabbergasted when I heard about Silke's dream. It was really right before I woke her up to give her the sad news."
KaShanta loved the outdoors, flowers, gardens, nature... She would have called this 'comfort in the midst of pain,' a God-wink.
'All is well' (same as 'all will be ok' stated above) are three of the words that the Lord gave to me in 2012 when we found out about the HER2 Triple Negative breast cancer diagnosis. She is well and we will be okay. Our daughter has completed her walk through the valley of death and when it casts its ugly shadow, the Son of God is always there to shine the warmth of his love on us.
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PSALMS 34:18 The Lord is near unto them that are of a broken heart...
On this day a year ago, the Lord interrupted my schedule and gave me an opportunity to minister to a director whose child had passed just a few short weeks before my daughter. The hour passed so fast, we hardly noticed. She stated that we are in an exclusive club. Her child was 33 - mine 38. Our lives paralleled uncannily. It's even interesting that she used the word club. I told the Lord, in my heart in 2012, that this was not a club I wanted to be in. I said these words only in my heart because there are some things I don't say out loud, so that I give no opportunity for them to manifest. Like my daughter, the director's child suffered terribly from a rare form of cancer, too. There are no words to describe how it feels to watch your precious children in torment. You just do everything that you can to ease that pain. At times, my new friend and I just sat in absolute silence, other times, she would cry. I was there to listen when she needed to speak and was able to convey what she could not at times - then we both cried. I held her hand, prayed with her, and sang over her. We had never met before, but we knew each other's heart. From one broken heart to another, we identified with each other in unique ways. She too, loves helping people, and I found out that both our interests are rooted in helping with life's basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing - showing people the love of Jesus.
As we continued to share our hearts with one another, I learned that the director was heartbroken due to long term friendships being severed during this tumultuous period, when she needed friendships the most. The old saying, "You find out who your true friends are when you are going through the most difficult seasons of your life", is true! My new friend learned many valuable lessons, much the same as I did. I am so blessed with friends, sons, and daughters that I never had before, and I am truly thankful for having gained such richness to my life. Often times, it was people that the director did not know that helped her the most, or that gave her the support that she never expected. It's strange how that works. Though the struggle is tremendous, she took some comfort in knowing that I identified with her pain. I REALLY did - in every way. How many times have I shared that our trials and tribulations are not about us, but to assist someone else along life's journey? That is more of a revelation now than it has ever been.
Please pray for my friend mentioned above, and all who have lost a child - no matter how they died. I take comfort in knowing that Jesus died to identify with both of us. Indeed - all of us. The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in Him and I'm helped.
This entire ordeal reminded me of the classic children's poem, Humpty Dumpty: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men could not put him back together again, "but God can". He can take every shattered piece of our lives and reconstruct masterpieces out of them as we yield ourselves to him for His purpose.
REVELATION 21:4 God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
June 11 is indelibly marked in my mind for it serves as the anniversary of our firstborn daughter, KaShanta's transition from earth into the presence of the Lord. Somehow the word, transition speaks to me a softer tone than just to say she died. Death sounds so final, but it isn't. I know, the end result is the same because, at any rate, one stops breathing. All the energy escapes from the body. The body returns for a time to the dust and the spirit man ascends upwards or not. The good news is we have a great hope outlined in I Thessalonians 4:16-17, which reminds us that those whose bodies are asleep in Jesus will be caught up with those who are alive on earth to be with the Lord always. That is most comforting.
Although there have been many tearful days that lead up to this one, I've determined to celebrate her life. I allow myself time to grieve and cry whenever I feel like doing so. I refuse to wallow in a state of depression.
Grief affects everyone differently and I am no stranger to it. I lost my father, my best friend on March 16, 2009, and six weeks later, I lost my maternal grandmother in May - another best friend. Years ago, I lost my paternal grandmother, grandfather, maternal grandfather, several aunts, and cousins. However, losing my daughter, a best friend, took on a whole new life of grief. When a parent dies, we call the survivors orphans, motherless, or fatherless. When a spouse dies, we call the survivor a widow or widower depending on the gender. But when your child is no longer alive on earth, what are the survivors called? Nothing! There are no words - at least that I know of. However, there are several adjectives that come to mind: breathless, speechless, and numb - just to name a few.
We celebrate her today instead of mourning because her morning is finally here. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 30:5b Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. She is pain-free - no more suffering. Everyone has midnight hour seasons in their lives and yearn for the warmth of the morning light. We all believed along with Shan (short name) that God would heal her and he did but not in the way that we anticipated. In January 2015, she told me that she was not willing to stay on earth in this condition. The conversation referenced her father, who has suffered the pains of kidney failure since November 1992. Although he is a walking miracle, he has dealt with major medical problems 24/7/365 since his diagnosis in 1992.
ALL CANCERS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
KaShanta suffered so much that it inspired her to start an organization that would help women with HER2 Triple Negative breast cancer, the guilty culprit that ravished her beautiful body in so many ways. We had never heard of this crippling disease. Shan did not want her family, or anyone to suffer the things that she endured. The determination of a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 was not for her to witness but it happened as she dreamed it would. Even though I was the co-founder, I did not want the reigns. She was a natural for the mission - spontaneous and extremely knowledgeable. However, to honor her vision and legacy I have assumed the position of president. My daughter, Kamilia and I knew that we must pursue the assignment in commemoration of her efforts.
AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALES - LEADING FACE OF HER2 TRIPLE NEGATIVE
You can help us spread the word about HER2 Triple Negative breast cancer. It is rare, super aggressive and tends to victimize African-American women from the ages of 40-50 years young. It is difficult to treat with orthodox medicines and tends to claim its victims rapidly. Shan was diagnosed in 2012,after being misdiagnosed several times prior, at the age of 34, and she passed in 2015. We knew that something was amiss, but she was continuously given a clean bill of health. Looking at her in the beginning stages, you would never guess the war that was raging inside her body. Prior to the detection of HER2, she practiced a healthy lifestyle and did not fit the statistics. KaShanta was not overweight, ate healthy, exercised, expanded her knowledge on a continuous basis and strengthened her spirit by meditating in the Bible. Orthodox treatments, including a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation were unable to save her. In fact, they worsened her conditioned due to some mistakes on the part of one surgeon and other doctors - at different times.
Nevertheless, we celebrate her 38 years on planet earth and all that she accomplished in such a short time. At her memorial service, her oldest daughter, Ashlynn, age 15, wrote a poem as a tribute to her mother. The most notable statement I heard her say was, "The brightest stars burn out first. My mother was a bright star". Indeed, she was, Ashlynn. Indeed, she was!
KaShanta Monique Clark Sims, we will always cherish your memory on earth. We will always honor your service as a soldier in the United States Army. We will always celebrate the pain-free life you are now able to embrace. We vow, by the grace of God, to continue the mission that you gave birth to. We will always remember what you told us not to forget.