“symbolic ride to eternity” with her family
was early Sunday morning of August 31, 1997.
Princess Diana’s fatal car accident on CNN woke me up.
It was very unusual for Rachel to watch TV early morning, unless she left
it on the night before. I reached
out for Rachel’s hands on the other side of our bed, but they were gone
already. Reclined on her La-Z-Boy
chair, Rachel’s eyes were glued to the TV.
I asked her how she was doing, but she motioned her hands for me not to
distract her attention from the breaking news.
weeks earlier, Rachel was confined at the ICU (intensive care unit) of UCSF
(University of California in San Francisco) hospital.
Since then, she had seen her oncology doctors, Dr. Alan Venook and Dr.
Emily Bergsland, twice already at the UCSF outpatient clinic located at 400
Parnassus Street and toweringly overlooked the world renown Golden Gate Bridge
in San Francisco.
those visits, intravenous liquid was injected into her veins through her blood
port and replenish the chemicals she had lost from her body. They were treating Rachel’s terminal pancreatic cancer that
had metastasized already into her liver when they discovered it.
For the last six years, they had successfully arrested its spread into
her lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, lungs and breasts.
the ICU, while our sons were blessing the Sacrament bread and water, Rachel and
I realized that the Lord had granted her righteous desire, i.e., for God to
sustain her life long enough for her to witness each son cross certain
milestones in his youth. Rachel
wished to see her sons, Joe and Joey, to 1) receive their high school diploma,
2) receive their Eagle Scout rank, 3) receive their Melchizedek Priesthood, 4)
receive their individual temple endowment, 5) receive their call to serve a
two-year full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
All had come to pass.
unwavering faith in God had sustained her, and she already had accepted
graciously the will of the Lord. Rachel
always appreciated the dawn of a new day in her life.
As a gesture of her gratitude, she heeded the Lord’s admonition that
“if you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done
it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) At
the end of each day, Rachel would kneel down and honestly give an accounting of
her stewardship as a wife, a mother and a help-maid of God.
In response, the Lord blessed her with another day to live.
her last visit, her doctors informed Rachel “it was the end of the line” for
her. They were offering Rachel a choice on where to die -- at home
or at the hospital. While they were
numbered amongst the best oncologists on the West Coast, Rachel apparently had
reached the limits of their medical knowledge and expertise.
At this time, they had ruled out pancreatic and/or liver transplant.
She was “on deck” some time ago, waiting for a donor that would give
a good match for her organs. Now,
her heart and body could no longer sustain a transplant operation and good
rejected their proposition. She
told them that she had heard them say what she’s hearing now from them six
years ago. And, yet, she lived
simply because of her faith in God and in the miracle of modern science.
prayer, her doctors had listened to some of her ideas on how to treat her during
times when experimental medical procedures had failed on her. Rachel’s doctors had the great intelligence to understand
her knowledge in food science and enough humility to experiment on her ideas on
how to treat her terminal cancer. The
good teamwork between Rachel and her doctors sustained her life beyond
doctors asked me to arrange a meeting with our bishop, Cliff Brower, and our
ward Relief Society president, Mavis Odom, a professional nurse.
The purpose of the meeting was to agree on a plan on how to make it very
comfortable for Rachel to die either at home or at the hospital, depending on
Sabbath morning, like clockwork, Rachel was prepared to teach her gospel
doctrine class and renew her baptismal covenant with the Lord.
This time, however, Rachel did not have the strength that she always had
every Sunday. Rachel knew it was
the Melchizedek Priesthood that we hold, our sons and I gathered in a circle
around Rachel and bestowed her a blessing of comfort.
As always, Rachel was beautiful in Sunday dress.
Rachel managed to walk to our car parked on the driveway.
Brower dropped in to check on Rachel. Seeing
Rachel in the front passenger seat, Bishop Brower asked “Rachel, are you ready
to go?” Rachel replied “Yes,
Bishop.” The bishop asked again,
“Rachel, are you really ready to go?” Rachel
replied, “Yes, Bishop.” The
bishop asked for the third time, “Rachel, do you understand my question? Are you ready to go?”
Rachel replied again, “Yes, Bishop, I do understand your question.
I’m really ready to go.”
instructed Joe to start the car and drive across town in Fremont.
She asked Joey and me to take the backseat. The beautiful scenery on our broadside silently and buoyantly
floated along. Soon after, we were
on the freeway headed toward Sacramento. This
was our family’s “symbolic ride to eternity.”
At about 4:30 p.m., Rachel fell asleep.
Shortly thereafter, the “911 paramedic” pronounced her dead in
had her way. She “died with her
boots on” and dressed in her Sunday best.
She chose not to die in her bedroom at home or in a hospital bed.
She had her final “symbolic ride to eternity” with her family.