In this life there are many things to prepare for, but the most important is for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. I will take you with me, should you want to come along, on my personal journey to the door which will lead to eternity, through which every soul must pass. Where the angel of death waits to ask the all important question, "Are you prepared for the Kingdom?"

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Location: Anacortes, Washington, United States

Two years ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived surgery along with chemo/radiation treatments. Recently, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and although I am again on chemotherapy, in all probability I have perhaps one more year to live. During these last months I would like to share what I have learned about the most important thing we'll ever do in this life and that is, prepare for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is It Real?

I would like to share with you an experience I had two years ago just after I stopped my first chemotherapy/radiation treatments. I will call it my dark night of the soul.

It was during the days when I would wake up and wonder if this would be my last day on earth. In my mind I would envision my boys carrying my casket to the grave. I cried a lot during that time. I was truly terrified of death.

So just to show how ruthless and vengeful the evil one (whose name I will not mention) can be, I was subjected to one of the cruelest of temptations. Although, at the time I didn’t realize it was a temptation, but I’ll get to that later.

I was allowed to hear the words, “What if this is not real!” Meaning, what if all this faith and religion and spiritual life that you think you’ve found is just a hoax. What if it was all started a long time ago by people who just wanted to explain away the inevitable nothing that comes after death. After all, this is 2000 years after the so-called facts. How do you know if it’s all real?

This was truly being kicked when I was down, at my lowest point in life. I had very little in the way of mental defense against these thoughts. I was in total darkness. Everyday I would wake up with the same thoughts and just couldn’t find my way out.

Somehow, during this time, I managed to make a trip to California to see my family (mother and brothers). I still don’t know how I managed that. I weighed about 84 lbs and couldn’t digest food very well, but I got my things together, got on a plane and made the trip from Seattle to Los Angeles. On the way back I flew to Oakland, CA and took a bus to Santa Rosa (about a 2 hour ride) where Fr. Abbot met me and drove me the final hour and a half to Mt. Tabor.

I had only planned on staying a week. I stayed three weeks. During that time I had the worst emotional roller coaster ride imaginable. Death was in my face constantly.

One day I decided to visit the shrine of Our Lady, it was just a small shrine and very old. Behind it is a tiny little cemetery with about nine graves. I walked through it and just sobbed. All I could imagine was being in that casket underground in dark nothingness. I went back around to the front of the shrine and stood before the icon of Our Lady. All I could say to her was that I was going to die and I had done absolutely nothing with my life, nothing.

Then suddenly, in my heart, I heard her voice. She has the most beautiful voice. She said, come closer. So I approached her altar in the shrine. As I stood there crying, I felt so comforted by her and was reminded of my children. I actually had done something worthwhile with my life. I told her that if it were possible, I wanted to do something more so that when I died I could at least have something to show for my 50 some years. I felt that she heard me and I left the shrine in peace.

One day after my return home, I was reading a book on the 33 Doctors of the Church. I chose to read about St. Therese of Lisieux that day. What I read would set me free from the dark thoughts I had been experiencing for the past few months. I read the following:

He permitted my soul to be invaded by the thickest darkness, and that the thought of Heaven, up until then so sweet to me, be no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment. (Story of a Soul, p. 211)

The darkness, borrowing the voice of sinners, says mockingly to me: “You are dreaming about a light, about a fatherland embalmed in the sweetest perfumes; you are dreaming about the eternal possession of the Creator of these marvels; you believe that you will one day walk out of this fog which surrounds you! Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness.” (Story of a Soul, p. 213)

The more Therese felt the loss of a sense of faith, the more she continued to make acts of faith.

I was not only shown that this was in fact a temptation, but also what to do about it! When we are tempted with unbelief, the more we must continue to believe and not only believe, but to act on those beliefs. Continue to pray, continue to receive the Divine Mysteries, continue to trust in the promises of Christ.

I cannot tell you what this has done for me. Now, whenever I hear those words “it’s not real,” I say well, if heaven is not real then neither are you. So when I continue to get harassed about this, it just confirms my belief that “it is real!” For if the principalities of darkness exist, then heaven must also exist.

I just read a wonderful quote this morning from a 4th century Hieromonk (priest/monk), Abba Isidore, from the book, “Sayings of the Desert Fathers.” It says:

Abba Poemen said concerning Abba Isidore

When the demons who are at war with men tried to make him afraid, suggesting that, after all this, he would still go to hell, he replied, “Even if I am sent there, I shall find you beneath me.”

How appropriate!

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!


Blogger Honora said...

Amen. Oh, Lord, Laura--this post made me cry for you.

I've always thought the worst suffering there could be is spiritual.. to not have the solace of the Trinity (or to think one has lost God). It came out after her death that little Mother Teresa also suffered the dark night of the soul, yet for years kept going on with everything.

Some darkness is, indeed, to be sifted by hell itself. I think the Lord allows it only because He wants us to see where our hearts really are.

And I don't know who said it -- probably some crusty ol' New Englander in a Nor'easter, but it's true, isn't it: Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

It would seem that the beautiful light of your iconography was born of your darkest travail.

I thank God, for both our sakes, that there was an Abbot Joseph somewhere in the picture. Right there proves "It is real." :-)

God bless you. I'll be keeping you closer in prayer..I'm going to ask our Little Therese to remind me and remind me..

7:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think we could all use an Abbot Joseph in our lives. I ask St. Therese to pray for him all the time and I know she does. Also, Our Lady, the most beautiful woman that ever lived is on his side.

And you are correct, my iconography was born out of this experience.

Thank you for your comments, they are very important to me.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Honora said...

:-) You're welcome. Thank you for sharing so much with us - I suspect it isn't easy.

Indeed, Our Lady is on his side, and that's the one way that I can and have always been able to see her as "Mother" -- to Priests.

5:21 PM  
Blogger forget me not said...

I've been thinking about this post since I first read it Laura. Thank you for sharing this with us. Your pilgrimage is a gift to us all. One that we will cherish.

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think the temptation to doubt, not God's goodness, but God's existence, is used by Satan in very difficult times.

When everything seems topsy-turvy and insane, I wonder why in the world am I remaining faithful the Christ, since he seems to make no measurable difference in my daily life. In fact, I find that the temptation comes this way for me: "Alan, what an idiot you are for bothering to persevere. What is it getting you?" God seems absent and everything I know about the Kingdom seems dry, unreal and ephemeral.

Thank you for writing about this. Your journey is echoing what many of us are going through right now.

May God grant us an outpouring of joy in him and his redemptive purposes.


Alan Farhi

6:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...


You are absolutely right! The temptation is to doubt God's existence, for if we can be convinced of this, and there is plenty in the world to convince us, then we are certainly doomed to despair and this is the evil one's primary goal, to plunge us into despair caused by unbelief.

But as Christ has said, He has overcome the world and this is reason enough to remain faithful to Him. As St.Paul says, "Fight the good fight!"

May God bless you abundantly and may we all immerge from these dark nights victorious in the Light of Christ.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Amen and amen.

Please see my comment on your posting, "Sudden Death".



6:31 AM  
Blogger Gabrielle said...

Laura, I have come back to this post several times before commenting because I just wanted to think quietly for a while on your beautiful encounter with the Blessed Virgin. I was reflecting on the fact that Mary reminded you of your children as being a great accomplishment, and comforted you, and heard your prayer to do even more. It made me think of birth, and creativity, and being a co-creator. As Honora mentioned, and you affirmed, it was really the beginning of what would be the birth of your iconography, the birth of your blog, and probably the birth of many other things in your life of which your readers are not aware. Is it any wonder that you were being attacked, when no doubt he could foresee the other offspring you would produce for the Lord's glory. We give thanks for your courage and faith, and how wonderful to have heard the beautiful voice of the Blessed Virgin, and to feel her comfort.

1:15 PM  
Blogger forget me not said...

Laura I just saw your new icon. It's stupendous and the image is similar to the miraculous one I saw in Greece! What an amazing coincidence...or rather, sign. I love the deep red, so warm and comforting. In western art we usually see images of the Blessed Virgin in some shade of blue, but the red is more...real somehow.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:-) Royal colours, it seems.


7:28 AM  

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