The hit movie “I Can Only Imagine” tells the story of a young and upcoming Christian singer and songwriter and his difficult relationship with his abusive father. The movie centers not upon only his musical composition, but the fact that his father was found to be dying from pancreatic cancer.
This disease is one of the more deadly forms of cancer, and it is estimated 23 percent of those diagnosed with cancer of the endocrine pancreas are living one year after that diagnosis.
Pancreatic cancer is prevalent enough that nearly everyone knows a family member or a friend who has been treated for this condition. It is a type of cancer that is often diagnosed when it is already advanced.
Of course, as we all know, pancreatic cancer is only one of many forms of the disease, Cancer is something that affects nearly every family over the course of time, as medical research scrambles to try to find a cure or better diagnostics to fight cancer at earlier stages.
The wrenching toll that pancreatic cancer takes on a family should serve as a rallying cry for all of us to do whatever we can to support efforts to find better treatments, and even a cure for this generally lethal malady.
This story hit home with my own family, because in August 2017, our mother, Linda Messersmith, was diagnosed with the same disease, and she passed away on Nov. 25.
The movie details the young singer’s strength of faith, and serves as a reminder to all of us that our relationships with our family must always be nurtured. In the movie the father and son overcome many obstacles in their relationship. In the end, however, it is their belief in the power of Christ that brings them together, although such faith did not come to the father until his last days.
The movie emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, and illustrates how the power of faith in Christ can overcome so many of the interpersonal problems we can have in life.
Our mother had a career as a caregiver at Fairhaven Shelby County Home, so she was aware of the needs of those who were coping with chronic and severe illness, and facing their own impending deaths. She did not wish for my sisters to be burdened with her care, but did hope for her death to take place at home. The day of her passing finally brought her relief from the extreme discomfort she was experiencing.
Our entire family was grateful to Hospice of Miami County for the critical, much-needed assistance rendered to our mother and the family in the last stages of her illness. My sisters Kim, Lorie, Jennie and Amy, were able to experience the grace with which our mother faced the coming end of her life as they all took care of her. For them, her physical care was a difficult but treasured experience.
I was extremely grateful for the care my sisters were able to provide for our mother, as I was unable to do so myself due to my own physical condition, However, I was able to offer conversation and much prayer.
Now four months since her passing, we have the opportunity to look back and take stock of my mother’s life and what she meant to not only her family but her friends and everyone whose lives she touched.
Both of our parents are now with The Lord, our father Dalton Messersmith having passed on in 2012. Our family was blessed, because unlike the young singer’s father in the movie, both of our parents were lifelong people of faith.
We thank God that we were raised by parents who were believers in the power and love of Christ, so we did not have the added pain of being raised by people who did not know the power and peace that faith brings. That faith and their love continues to guide us.
Even though our mother was taken from us by this disease, she still lives on in our hearts. We know that so many others who have lost family members to this condition are being similarly touched by watching “I Can Only Imagine” and the powerful message it expresses.
Our mother did not ask for healing, for she knew the gravity of her condition, but most importantly knew that she was going to be going to receive the promise of our Lord of everlasting life. She also knew she would spend eternity with the man she loved for most of a lifetime.
“I Can Only Imagine” portrays the role of forgiveness in our faith and in our lives. I would like to encourage all believers and nonbelievers alike to go see this movie so that they can experience its powerful message.
The writer is the founder of I’m Not Broken Ministries.