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When I left my family and friends in KY to move to San Diego to be a full-time youth pastor, one of the families that took me “under their wing” was the Self family. Even when I resigned as youth pastor and formed Larry Bubb Ministries, Frank and Dolores continued to be a big encouragement and blessing to me. I still remember being excited and overwhelmed when I got my big break to be a featured preacher to 1000 people at the CA State Evangelism Conference sharing the stage with internationally known preachers I had admired for years. Frank and Dolores traveled all the way to Sacramento to support me and pray for me. To this day I still remember some of the encouraging words they shared with me!
After Frank passed away, Dolores moved to Tucson. She continued to be a support to me and this ministry as she has faithfully written me notes of encouragement almost every month for 30 years! She would mention her prayers for LBM or an encouraging word about the newsletter or just little updates on her life.
So I did not give it much thought when I opened the card she sent me in April. I was stunned to read that she had incurable cancer. I could hardly sleep that night as I agonized in thought and prayer for Dolores. After quite some time I began to question why I was so urgently praying for her healing. I know God is all powerful, which means He could easily heal her. I also know He is all loving, which means He wants what's best for her even more than I do. I was pleading with God like I needed to convince Him to do something loving for Dolores, as if He didn't already want what was best for her. The clincher was the fact that God is also all knowing. This means He absolutely knows what is best for her, unlike me. I can imagine that to God my prayers were sounding like, “Please, God, would you give Dolores a rundown, bug-infested shack with no A/C or heat, as well as a body that suffers pain, heartache, and physical limitations?” Yet God was very excited to give Dolores a breathtaking mansion right next to an amusement park, as well as a body with no more pain that can actually fly! Here I was pleading with God to give Dolores $20 when he wanted to give her $1 million!
So as I was sharing about God being omnipotent, all-loving, and omniscient, Dolores’s son, Jon, summed it up brilliantly: “Our response, then, comes down to one word . . . faith.” Can I trust God that He knows what is best for Dolores (omniscient) . . . and that He wants what’s best (all-loving) . . . and that He has the power to do whatever is best (omnipotent)? I had wanted to be an encouragement to Jon, yet his childlike faith (literally as Dolores’ child) ended up being a great encouragement to me. I had called Dolores the day after I got her note in an attempt to be an encouragement to her but she turned the tables and once again ended up being an incredible encouragement to me, just like Jon was.
I called Dolores two weeks later to get the official diagnosis. The cancer was in her blood and had spread to every part of her body. The doctor stopped counting at 6 lesions in her brain since there were so many. He thought she would have 4-6 months left to live (on this Earth).
Only 1 month later I got a powerful and touching email from Jon Self. He had visited his mom the previous weekend and wrote, "Before I left I asked her where her hope was. Her response was that her hope was in God and that she would be seeing Him soon. I told her no sad goodbyes, because I will see her again soon and there will be nothing but joy when that time comes."
I could not get Dolores off my mind and heart, which meant a lot of tears and prayers for her that night. 2 days later God orchestrated a way for Kristen and me to drive 12 hours round trip to Tucson to spend a bit of time with her. Kristen had a God-inspired idea on our drive to write down some Bible verses to share with her like, “Though our bodies are outwardly wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (II Cor. 4:16-18)
Even though she was very weak, she actually chuckled a couple times at my lame attempts at humor. She said she was still not in any pain! We prayed with her and she waved good-bye to us as we left. It turns out that will be my last image of one of the most Godly women I have ever been privileged to know. We got a call from Jon to let us know that just 2 days after we saw her, Dolores Self went into the presence of her loving Father and Savior Jesus Christ!
I liked John 11:35 when I was young because it was easy to memorize. Only 2 words . . . “Jesus wept.” As I get older, it has become so much more meaningful to me. The goal of the Christian life is to become more and more like Jesus Christ and I've discovered that I have this characteristic of Jesus down pat! Maybe Jesus wept because of what He was going to have to do to His good buddy Lazarus. Lazarus had passed away into Paradise with no more pain or sorrow, experiencing unfathomable joy and peace. Jesus was going to call him back from that perfect Paradise to once again have to experience this painful, broken world. He was probably like, “I am so sorry, Lazarus, but I need to show these people that I have power over death.” And so Jesus speaks these powerful words at Lazarus’ grave; “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever puts their faith in me, will live, even after dying. Whoever puts their faith in me while they are living, shall never die!”
So the great news is that the Dolores many of us were privileged to know and love is not dead! In fact, she’s more alive now than she ever has been! This physical death is just a passageway to more life. A life that is cleaner, clearer, brighter, and better than anything this earthly life has to offer. Originally I was sad every time I pictured Dolores waving goodbye to us, as she knew it would be the last time we would see her on this planet. Then I realized she wasn't even waving goodbye, she was saying “see you later,” as she anticipated the most exciting, incredible journey she had been waiting for all her earthly life. I will miss you Dolores . . . but I will see you later!
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