The testimony of Aaron Dieppa Amanda's husband

This is my testimony that I shared with Mariners Church College Group last night:

I’m not sure where to begin? This is a difficult subject for me and I’ll be honest…I almost didn’t show up tonight. The message this evening is on thankfulness. As I sat at home last night thinking about tonight and the approaching holidays, I questioned, Lord what do I have to be thankful for, my wife died just four months ago?

And then I proceeded to take a “poor me” trip down memory lane.

Just to give you guys an idea of where I was I’ll take you down that same memory lane.

When I met my wife Amanda, she was an athletic 19 year old with a passion for God. After getting to know her she shared with me her story of how she was diagnosed with Hodgekins Lymphoma at the age of 16, and how after treatment she was in remission, and cancer free. Not long after dating, we fell in love and knew that we hadn’t come into each other’s lives by accident, like we were destined soul mates.

Things soon took a turn for the worse, when after attending a regular check up the doctor informed us that Amanda had relapsed. That the cancer had returned. Our faith was shaken but definitely not broken. In fact I might go so far as to say that our relationship with each other and with God grew stronger. We recognized our dependency on Him. She went through more high-dose chemotherapy and radiation followed by a stem-cell transplant. After her treatments she had lost a lot of weight and lost her hair forcing her to wear a wig in public so that people wouldn’t stare. My love for her grew stronger and though I still found her breathtakingly beautiful I realized that I wasn’t just in love with her physical person, but that I was deeply in love with her soul.

So I took her to Catalina Island to a remote scenic viewpoint overlooking all of Avalon, got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She cried and said yes. We were so happy. Soon after proposing to her the test results came back negative, meaning her cancer was gone again!

We were on cloud 9, life couldn’t get any better. Amanda was cancer free and we were getting married. We said “I do” on November 15th 2003 in a wedding that was absolutely beautiful and our honeymoon was a true paradise. We stayed in a bed and breakfast on Lanikai beach in Kailua, Hawaii, where the sand was white and the ocean was warm and crystal clear.

Our life began to unfold like a fairytale, we both had good jobs, purchased our first home in Mission Viejo, and drove around in our little sports cars. We squeezed in a cruise to Mexico and one more vacation to Hawaii before our unseen enemy began to creep back into our lives again. Amanda started to have pains in her chest followed by difficulty breathing. The doctors said that she was relapsing for the third time. This was a devastating blow to our spirits and took it’s toll on our faith. We asked questions like how, and why? The doctors said that she couldn’t have any more radiation and that more chemotherapy would not cure her cancer but only slightly prolong her life. We had to sell our home and move back with my parents.

Things in her life were taken away from her one by one. Things that she and many of us often take for granted, like running or taking an unassisted breath of fresh air. In an attempt to destroy the cancer during prior chemotherapy treatments, the doctors infused harsh chemicals into her blood stream through an IV. Another treatment that Amanda was forced to endure was radiation, a therapy in which they used targeted radiation specifically aimed at the cancer. But, this therapy also caused permanent damage to the areas surrounding her tumor. These combined treatments caused so much damage to her lungs that over time her lung capacity was reduced to less than 50 percent. This meant that she couldn’t snowboard, surf, run, play soccer, skateboard or even walk up the stairs at home. All things which she did regularly. Her symptoms eventually worsened to the point of confining her to a wheelchair and causing her to become almost entirely dependent on an oxygen tank.

I’ll never forget that final day in the hospital. July 19th 2005. I remember how she died in my arms, and how I felt her chest fall as her last breath of air was leaving her body. I remember her heart beat one last time. And, that feeling…that painful unmistakenable feeling of her soul being ripped away from mine.

And then, as I sat there thinking about all of this, almost like a message from above, I remembered her last words. The words that are now permanently inscribed on her gravestone and in my heart. “FAITH NOT SIGHT.” She said them over and over again as the life was leaving her body. Faith not sight, faith not sight, faith not sight. She must have repeated those words 50 times. She was referring to 2 Corinthians 5:7 which reads: “We live by faith, not by sight.”

So last night when I sat remembering these things the answer to my question came to me…EVERYTHING! I have EVERYTHING to be thankful for. In the midst of all that Amanda was enduring, and in the very face of death she constantly and sincerely tried her hardest to maintain a joyful and thankful heart for the life that she was given. Even though she knew it could be taken away at any time.

So when I feel the loss of my soulmate like a knife in my heart, and I feel as though I’ve lost the will to go on… I try to remember to live by faith not by sight, because as it so clearly states in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

All of our problems here, even the ones that are seemingly unbearable are minute when compared to the power and love of God. We should be thankful for all that we have, even our troubles. Because, with these troubles, comes an opportunity to shine in the eyes of our Lord and reflect accurately the promise that God has made to all that believe in Him.

It says in the book of James 1:2 and 12 to “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” And “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Amanda persevered and maintained a sense of thankfulness even in the midst of her trials through her faith and love for God. And she is in heaven right now filled with eternal joy. Even if you feel like there isn’t anything to be thankful for, just remember that heaven is waiting for those who are faithful and believe. The fact alone, that there is a heaven, is reason enough to be thankful. If we try to imagine what heaven will be like, we can’t. It’s too perfect, too beautiful, too far beyond our God-created understanding. But all of us can be there too one day.

I guess one of the many lessons God has taught me through Amanda’s death is that, He wants us to appreciate his blessings in our lives and to be thankful for EVERYTHING, including our difficulties.