I believed fully for healing and rejoiced in the good report. Then the news came. Leukemia was back… for the third time. I wrestled hard, angry, not understanding, grieving. When faced with this type of situation in the past I have tended to pull back from God, but this time, determined not to, I pressed in, coming to God with unguarded emotion and questions. Then finally crying out, “What do you want me to do with this?” Waiting. Then the still small voice to my heart. “I want you to be drawn so deep into my love, that you trust my love for you, for Darlene, for her family, more than you trust the outcome of your prayer.” But how? Waiting. A heavy kind of peace settled on me and I sensed God taking my burden. I don’t know how long I was in that presence, but my faith changed. I found myself relating to Martha, in John 11, when she goes out to meet Jesus after Lazarus had died and was put in the tomb. I said, “Lord, if you had healed my friend, Darlene would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus is saying to me, “Your friend will rise again.” I say to him, “I know that she will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus is saying to me, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” I answer, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” (Personalized from the Bible, John 11:21-27 NRSV)

When I visited Darlene recently in the hospital, I asked if I could pray for healing. She said yes, and I prayed for healing each time I saw her, believing in the God who loves us, and leaving the outcome in His hands. During that same conversation, Darlene Carlson said, 

“I am surrendered, but I haven’t given up.” 

She also said she was at peace. Shown above, I put Darlene’s quote into visual expression using a silhouette of mine I use often. I chose it because it seems like Darlene saying, “I am surrendered and have risen above my circumstances and am at home with myself.”

Darlene Carlson, my Friend, full of Life!

Darlene is one of the most authentic and caring people I’ve ever known. By being transparent herself, she gave those around her permission to be themselves. In that way, Darlene set the tone for our friendship that began over 20 years ago. We shared honestly, had deep conversations, shared the joys everyday life in raising children, we voiced doubts, worked through misunderstandings, celebrated as family, were silly, and laughed uproariously.

Darlene, passed away last Friday. It is hard to to imagine life without her here. The surreal jumbled fog of grief washes over me now and then. I’m not unfamiliar with it. Each time a loved one dies, grief comes like the first time, taking me off guard all of  a sudden, in waves.

Another friend of mine, Mary George-Whittle who is a chaplain for elderly people, ushers 40-50 people into afterlife each year. Five years ago I asked Mary, “How do people die?” She answered, “I’ve found, people die how they live.” That simple statement still challenges me to live well today with a view of eternity. Darlene did that.

With this last relapse of leukemia, Darlene made a list of who she wanted to see and what she wanted to say and then she did it. She didn’t focus on her illness. Darlene was all about relationships. She said it often and lived it. Even in hospice, when I walked in her room, she would ask me the question she always asked, “What’s going on with you?”

We carry each other’s stories. How we carry them matters. Life really is all about relationships.

A remembrance written for Darlene in the margin space of my May 2015 calendar.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to Darlene. I pray for both of you and that the love of your friendship gives you smiles and strength. I'm so glad I found you and your beautiful work/blog. I'm sorry for your loss.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. May God bring you and her family peace and Joy … knowing that she is with her Lord. Blessing Mardi

  3. I am sorry you had to experience this loss. I walked this walk for eight months watching my sister die so I know the frustrations when a true child of God fights a cancer battle. Blessings on you as you keep the memories close to your heart.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss, Valerie. She sounds like an incredible person and friend, and your art is a beautiful tribute to her. ~Debra B.

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss, Valerie. But I celebrate the end of Darlene's suffering and the newness of her life everlasting….the life we are truly meant to live! ~Lori

  6. I am sorry for your loss, but am rejoicing that Darlene is with the Lord. How glorious! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thank you for sharing how Christ is relevant even in grief!! You have illustrated a lovely example in many ways!!

  8. I am sorry for the loss you are feeling and thank you for sharing. I am sharing this post with my husband, who lost his mother on Monday.

  9. Truely touching blog..woke up with grief after a quick nap n had dad in my dreams whom i lost 7 months back n received this blog link from my friend. .!! May almighty give u consolation from above..

  10. May lord almighty give consolation from above..i too in a state of recovery my dear dearest dad..can relate ur grief very well

  11. Wonderful post. When my Dad died two months ago, I understood that he was in a better place but I kept asking "Then why don't I feel better about it?" Someone finally answered me — "Because we are selfish and we don't want them to leave us." The fog has begun to lift and I'm not as depressed because I know my Dad would want me to go forward just as Darlene will want you to go on.

  12. What a beautiful tribute to your dear friend. I love that as you write about Darlene, you use "is", not "was". Thank you for sharing. This touched my heart deeply. May God comfort you.

  13. I'm so sorry for your loss. I love that piece you did to honor your friend's beautiful statement. I know your post will touch many souls. Stay in His arms where you can rest in His perfect peace. Maybe not just yet, but you will be able to rejoice wholeheartedly in His victory again with time This is not the end. {{Hug}}

  14. I'm amazed that even in your grief, your art is brightly colored, almost cheerful – not grey and somber. I'm just a visitor stopping by to drink of your art. I'm sorry for your loss.
    "People die how they live." There is much there to ponder.

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