Living the Hope Today

Michael and Victoria Finley

My brother and I walked into my Uncle’s hospital room about 7:20 am that morning. It was about 8 weeks ago. I had flown up to New York. I had been in touch with my brother about my Uncle’s condition frequently throughout the days for about a couple of weeks. Uncle was struggling. Uncle is 88 years old and he is a crusty old Greek, a New Yorker and a crusty old Greek and he is quite a little fighter. But he was having a rough time, he was in and out of the hospital for a couple of weeks. He planned for me to come up because Uncle doesn’t have a wife or any children and he inherited me and my brother and I’m his favorite. So, I needed to get up there and see how things are going and my brother really needed the backup.

I walked in with my brother Steve and there was my Uncle and he was just waking up and it was actually a good morning. He was calm and peaceful unlike how he had been for the last two weeks, he had been going through a really tough time.

I said to my brother, “you can leave, I’ve got this. I’ll hang out with Uncle for a while,” and I did. He was a wake for a little bit and we talked about a couple of things and he said “Victoria, I’m ready to go.” And I said, “okay, you mean go?” And he said “yeah, I mean go.” And I had about a minute and a half of cognitive reality with him and we talked about Jesus Christ. We talked about Christ in him and we talked about which direction he was going to go. And for the first time in my 57 years of life knowing him I had some concrete opportunity to make sure that I knew that I would see him at the return. Then that window closed and he fell back asleep and I had to deal with some things that God was really working in my heart.

There were some scheduled surgeries in the next day that man, just weren’t sitting with me. My brother was just listening to the doctors, he wasn’t really sure and I said “Steve, go, let me take care of Uncle today.” I left and it was about 8:30 and I went back to his assisted living home and I found the nursing director and I said, “Hey Carmelita, you’ve seen Uncle for the last 2 years. “Uncle had been living in an assisted living for 2 years.

Two years previous, my Uncle is death defying. He dropped dead on a New York side walk and was out for the count without a heart beat for over 9 minutes and he was on life support for 3 days. This was 2 years ago and I’ll be danged if that guy didn’t recover fully. Less than 1% of the people that suffer a complete cardiac arrythmia at any age recover and Mr. Steve Etimos did. Much to all of our surprise and I learned 2 years ago that you never count anybody out until their out. I don’t care if they’re on life support, I don’t care about nothing other than does God tell you that it’s over If it isn’t over, you stand in the gap for that person and my son and I were there and we stood in the gap and Uncle recovered and he had another full 2 years. He lived well and robustly for 2 years.

So, there he is kind of having a hard time. So, I go to Carmelita the nurse and I say, “What do you think Carmelita, they want to do a surgery and that’s not sitting right with me, I really think I need to talk to Palliative Care.” If you don’t know what Palliative Care is, it’s kind of end of life comfort care. I couldn’t even believe I was thinking about it. I hadn’t even talked to my brother about it and Carmelita looked at me and she said, “Victoria, you’re so right, you’re on the right track.” She knew Uncle from 2 years of working with him at the assisted living. So, she kind of gave me a little encouragement. I left, and I went over to have a cup of coffee at Glen’s Diner and I sat there and I was just thinking about the stuff that God was welling up in my soul about my Uncle. And I thought man, Palliative Care, I don’t know, you know it’s big God.

The phone rings and it’s Rosary. Rosary has been a life time friend of my Uncle’s for over 60 years in New York City. And she said “How’s Uncle doing? How’s Steve Etimos doing?” And I said, “Not so good Rose.” And she said “What do you mean?” And I said, “They want to do surgery, I don’t think so, it’s not fitting with me.” Rose, she goes, “You know what he wants Victoria.” She didn’t know what we talked about that morning. She goes, “You know what he wants, do what he wants. He trusts and loves you.” And I said,” I’m going to talk to Palliative Care Rose.” She goes, “Do it.” I hung up the phone,

I head back to Good Samaritan and I go over to the desk and I say, “Hey is there a social worker that I can make an appointment with?” They’re really tough to find. Overworked people let me tell you that. And you know who I’m talking to at the desk? The Social Worker, she standing right there, she’s available, the phone’s not ringing, she doesn’t have something in front of her face. She said, “I’m the social worker.” I said, “Cool, I’m Victoria Finley, I’m Steve Etimos’s niece. Can you help me? I need to talk to Palliative Care.” And I was like, “I can’t believe I’m talking about this.” And she said, “Yeah, I can. I’ll make a phone call right now and I’ll get the Palliative Team to see you right away. Go wait in his room.”

It’s now 10:30. I go in the room and Uncle is sound asleep, he’s really peaceful. And she said, “They’ll be there by 11 o’clock. 11 o’clock came and went. The Palliative Care Team didn’t show up till 2:30. I had 4 hours with Uncle. Two of those hours he was sound asleep and I put my head in the Word and I said “Father, you’ve got to show me what I need to know and what I need to do because this is not something I take lightly. I need to know what you want for him. I’m standing in the gap for him, tell me what I need to do.” And so, I opened up the Word, I’m reading along and I come across Psalm 48:14, “For this God is our God, forever and ever, and He will be our guide, even unto death.” And you know, I was the advocate for my Uncle and God was going to show me how to guide Uncle to his end day and I knew it. And it was overwhelming Ladies and Gentlemen to have that responsibility. But the light of His Word lifted me up.

About 12:30 a guy walks in the room and he says, “Hi, I’m Doctor so and so, I’m here to sign off on your Uncle’s surgery for tomorrow.” He was the cardiologist, I’d never met him. And I said, “Sir, my Uncle’s not having surgery tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe I said that, I hadn’t checked in with my brother or anything. And he said, “I applaud you, for having the courage to do what is right for your Uncle when he most needs it.” And then he began to minister the Word to me. And he told me how great God is and how doctors will give you all the options but it is up to the loved ones to stand in the gap. And the man hugged me and I sobbed on his shoulders as my Uncle lie in bed. And I said, “Sir, you came here to minister God’s healing to me.” And he said, “That’s what I woke up to do today, Victoria. I believe to be where God needs me to be.” And he gave me his cell number and I’m thinking do angels have cell numbers? Because you seem like one. And he left.

Uncle woke up and from 12:30 to 2:30, I had the most precious moments with my Uncle. He gave Uncle a gift of healing. His mind was completely sound. His body was completely at peace and we reminisced. My son called and told me he was awarded the International Bachelorette Diploma and he was so excited. I shared it with my Uncle and he said, “Mark Elliot is smart,” and I said, “yes he is.” And then he fell back asleep right when the Palliative Care Team came in. And in 15 minutes they signed off and we were going to put Uncle on Hospice that day.

I left about 3 o’clock and I walked into the elevator and I was so full, you know? And I sobbed and I tried to hide it, you know? I had to get out of there. And I got in the elevator and there’s this little lady from God. And she looks at me and she says, “Are you okay?” And I turned to her, I had my back to her and I turned to her and I said, “I just had to make a really difficult decision about my Uncle’s life.” And she walked with me out to the rainy parking lot at Good Samaritan Hospital and all the way she told me about Christ’s return, she told me about how good our God is and how He had Uncle right then and there in the palm of His hand. And how God was at work in me and she confirmed every decision I had made for that day. And then she hugged me like I hadn’t been hugged by, I can’t think when. She eliminated my soul and then she prayed for me in the middle of the rainy parking lot. Imagine that. And then she said, “we are sisters and I’ll see you at the return too. And she turned away and walked away to her car. And I thought to my self as I drove home and took care of a million other details that time will not permit me to tell you.

The goodness of our God, and though you may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear not evil, because Christ is coming back and the hope is a daily reality. I’m not waiting for the hope, I live in the hope today and yes, we will all face death Ladies and Gentlemen, our own and those we love, but He will be your guide and you will feel not evil and you will know what to do, when to do, how to do and why to do and you will be at peace and God will get the glory.


Victoria Finley

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