The Woman with the Red Purse and How My Life Changed

hospital waiting roomIt was a visual  picture that will be forever imprinted in my mind. She was an attractive, petite woman in her mid-forties, with shoulder-length black hair, white blouse, and a dark colored pencil-thin skirt. My eyes were drawn to  her large red purse as she walked down the long corridor. It seemed almost too big in proportion to her small size. I guess I needed to focus on something other than my thoughts. As she walked closer, I could tell she was coming towards us, especially since my daughter and I were the only two people sitting in the waiting area.

There wasn’t a smile on her face when she introduced herself. It was obvious the news she was going to tell us was not good. “I’m so sorry”, she said. “There’s nothing we can do. The cancer has spread….”

I wouldn’t let the reality of her words penetrate my mind, not now. I went into a mama’s protection mode as I pushed back my own feelings to be strong for my daughter.  “We’ll get through this, we’ll get through this”, I kept saying.  Even though I didn’t believe my own words, I said them anyway. After all,  this was her daddy the surgeon was talking about. My husband of 45 years, but her daddy that she adored.  What I really wanted to do was run down the long corridor screaming “no, no, no…”

This seemingly empty section of the hospital and surgical waiting room suddenly seemed very cold, and I began to shake as I often do when I am chilled to the bone. I began to feel the chill of the surgeon’s words pierce my heart. “A  rare, aggressive  form of colon cancer that has spread to the liver and beyond….” 

I knew this was something I couldn’t fix with words, a hug, or a kiss. I knew I needed to lean into Jesus–no, fall into Jesus, like I’d never done before.

I felt numb as I pushed away the reality of losing Bill.  I knew the only way I could physically take another step, or emotionally face the time we had left, was by breathing in Jesus and His word with every breath I took. In the days ahead when I felt weak, His strength became my strength. When my sorrow was uncontrollable, His comfort sustained me. When I was overwhelmed, His peace filled me.  He wiped away my nightly  tears of grief with a smile to face each day.

Jesus still does that today, seven years later.  

Bill lived four agonizing months after his diagnosis on a Good Friday and emergency surgery on an Easter Sunday.  I never left his side. Our love for each other seemed to permeate our hospital wing and hospice.  Bill radiated Jesus with every word he spoke to the doctors and nurses. When anyone asked him what he did, he would always say, “I am a Christ-follower.”  His love and concern for me, and my love and care for him became a testimony of our devotion to each other.

I recently saw the surgeon who carried the red purse and stopped to introduce myself, knowing she couldn’t possibly remember all her patients.  “Oh yes,” she said, “I remember you, your husband, and your two children. You were quite an unforgettable family and your husband was a remarkable man.  He had such peace, even as he faced death.  He always managed to smile, even when he was in pain, and  there was an inner strength in him as his body weakened.”

As I sat in church every Easter for the last seven years, I would vividly remember that Sunday as the beginning of a life change and loss that rocked my world – and our children’s world –  to the core. But, I also remember that it is because of our risen Savior, that I will see my Bill again, face to face, in Heaven.  There will be no disease, no suffering and no pain – only the joy of being reunited together again.

Then, with tears and a smile, I sing deep from within my soul, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow….”  

From My Heart to Yours,

“I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. I only know at His right hand is one who is my Savior.”

(Words from an old hymn given to me by a beloved friend on August 9, 2009, the day Bill went home to be with Jesus.)


  1. Terri L Barnes on May 16, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Susan: Thank you for allowing God’s word and power to speak through your own pain and vulnerability. It’s clear that your ministry is close to your heart because of your tenderness toward others. Love …

  2. Tracy Goble on May 11, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. You continue to show me how to walk with Jesus in a deeper way every day!! I love you!!

  3. Pat Ammons on May 11, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Dear Precious Susan,
    I have wondered about this for the past 7 years knowing your voice is one that speaks clearly in the darkness. Thank you for writing about this time in your life and for giving us direction and hope as we ponder that time we may one day face. With love and gratitude for your walk with Jesus!

  4. Sherri Spicer on May 11, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Once again you have communicated so beautifully from the heart. You touch so many lives with that amazing gift!

  5. Carla on May 11, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Miss Susan

    Thank you for your vulnerability.
    You and Your Sweet William will always hold a special place in our hearts.

    After my Daddy’s own Heavenly journey this past summer , I have learned from your words once again. Always pointing me back to the Word and to our Jesus.
    Thank you sweet sister.
    For His Glory

  6. stephanie pletka on May 11, 2017 at 6:41 am

    Beautiful! I wish I had of known Bill. Sounds like you were such an impactful couple to all who knew you. Praying for peace and many adventures. Love you Susan!

  7. Sudie on May 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I love you, my sister Susan. You are always in my heart and prayers! Your and Bill’s love for Jesus and each other has deeply impacted me – just like it did this doctor. I am so grateful!

  8. Barbara on May 8, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Susan, you and Bill played such an important role in Tim and my life. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing. As I now travel this same road you have come along side of me with your grace, encouragement and sharing your story. Thank you for your love and support and showing me that with God’s grace we will get through this. I know you will continue to be there for me, sharing your story and I know God uses us to come along side of others. Thank you for your loving heart. So blessed to have you as my friend. Choosing Joy

    • Cherry Jackson on May 10, 2017 at 4:32 am

      Yes, you and Bill were a remarkable couple and not to ever be forgotten. Bill has left deep and lasting impressions of love, joy, and care for those he touched, and you continue to do so in your life. Just miss those times of being near to you.

  9. Carol shriber on May 8, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Susan, thank you so much for sharing this part of your story. I am so “blessed” to have met you!

  10. Rebecca on May 8, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Susan, thank you for allowing us to experience your story. Although I knew your husband was with the Lord, I didn’t know exactly what happened. What a testimony through adversity, that I’m sure touched multitudes of people. Love you, Susan.

  11. Cynthia Taylor on May 8, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I love you, Susan Miller!!!!

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