My Encounter with Phoebe

March 21, 2013

by Maria Fontaine

(Note: Dear Phoebe went home to be with Jesus on the morning of March 20, peacefully in her sleep. We rejoice that she is now safe in the arms of Jesus, free from pain and suffering. Our hearts, love, and fervent prayers reach out to her parents and siblings, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time.)

Less than two months ago I had an unexpected but very special experience. I was on a trip to the U.S. and traveled to San Antonio, where a TFI couple, Keith and Caryn, had offered to help me with anything I might need, God bless them. They mentioned that Phoebe (22 years old, of Mike [Adam] and Mary) was staying with friends in the area and wondered if I would like to meet her. (As many of you know, Phoebe had been diagnosed with leukemia. She had undergone aggressive medical treatment in the U.S., which caused the leukemia to go into remission.)

I jumped at the chance to meet her. I’d been following her progress through the prayer requests that her mom had been posting on the site, as well as notes that her parents had written us.

From what I knew about Phoebe, I was sure that meeting her would be very inspiring, and I hoped that I would be some encouragement to her as well. During our dinner together, Phoebe told me that it was significant that I had come at this time, since two days before, she had found out that the cancer was no longer in remission and that it was very aggressive. She probably had no more than four months at the most to live. Later she told me that she had always hoped to meet me—even prayed for it—and that it meant a lot to her.

As we talked, I saw that though her “knees were shaking,” her faith was solid. What was her faith in? That she was going to sail right through this ordeal, confident and unperturbed? That there wasn’t going to be any problem, pain, or difficulty? I knew that her faith was not built on those things, seeing the extremely difficult experiences she had already gone through. Her faith was built on trust that God loved her and that He in His wisdom knew what would ultimately make her the happiest; confidence that He was in control and wasn’t going to let anything get out of control; assurance that He was going to see her safely through, either to supernaturally heal her here in this life, or to carry her right through heaven’s door where she would be totally healed forever.

When Jesus is with you, He will protect you and walk with you even through the valley of the shadow of death. A child can be fearful of facing the unknown, but if her parent is right there with his arm around her, telling her it’s going to be okay, she has confidence to keep going even if she’s still scared. It’s the same way with us and Him.

Phoebe was remarkably open and straightforward in speaking of her possible soon-coming trip to heaven. She articulated her feelings very well, amazingly so, I thought, for someone who was speaking of something that for most people is one of the most devastating things they can imagine and one that they have extreme difficulty facing. It was a moving experience for me to think that I was conversing with someone who might soon be in the arms of Jesus enjoying His presence and all that His heavenly home afforded. I felt like telling her, “Please tell Him you saw me! Please give Him my love!”—Just as you would do if someone were going on a trip to see folks that you love.

Understandably, Phoebe had lots of deep questions about why the Lord was working this way in her life, and she expressed some of them. She felt that her life had been so short and she hadn’t had a chance to live out her dreams. The response the Lord laid on my heart was that in God’s great, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise love He was still going to fulfill her dreams in ways that would be even more fantastic, more exciting, more rewarding than anything she could have ever dreamed. They would not be exactly the way she would have lived them here on earth, but they would be fulfilled nonetheless, in much greater ways.

I saw from talking to her that her faith was in the fact that Jesus, in His love, was going to give her the very best. That faith had come, not in one flash of enlightenment, one great springing up like an unexpected geyser, but it had come because throughout her life Phoebe had experienced that Jesus walked beside her and always took good care of her. She had learned how to make hard decisions and choices in consultation with Him.

Phoebe had not just sailed through her life problem-free. Her life had not been without its battles, doubts, and questions. In fact, one area that had been especially difficult was that she was born without fingers on her left hand. She had struggled greatly with this—having children make fun of her when she was a child; having people look at her and stare; having to depend on others to help her with things. The fact that she was different was hard, but at the age of sixteen she had a breakthrough as she committed it to the Lord. She decided that she was going to look on the positive and be praiseful for the many good things in her life. She told me, “It was like a peace, a comfort, and an accepting of myself and the Lord’s love for me that wasn’t there before.”

I asked Phoebe if she had to “forgive” God for letting her be handicapped. She said: “In a way, yes, I suppose, but more than that, I had to let go of what I thought was right and fair and just. I had to let go of my questions and just trust that there is a reason and purpose to everything.”

She told me that prophecy had been a big part of her life, and said that at every turn the Lord spoke to her through her own channel or through someone else’s. She told me, “Through everything, my connection with the Lord is what has kept me going.”

Just as everyone who had occasion to be around Phoebe discovered, she had a beautiful glow that came from her faith in Jesus.—Not that she didn’t have battles and fears and concerns. Facing such a huge transition into the unknown before her had to be pretty scary.

Since that visit, I had a few Skype calls with Phoebe. As always, she was more concerned about others than about herself. She told me, “I feel that in a lot of ways for my friends and for my family, it’s harder for them than it is for me. Because for me it’s like, yeah, I’m going to die, and of course I’m going to miss everyone. But I’m going to heaven, you know? Of course, it’s going to be hard initially not to be able to spend time with people here the way that I’m able to now. But in a lot of ways I feel that it’s harder for them, because they’re the ones who are actually losing something and have to trust the Lord more for it. It’s very hard for them to understand how God can allow me to suffer so much and not heal me.”

At that time I asked the Lord if He wanted to give Phoebe any words of encouragement on this point, and He said:

My precious one, you can’t expect that everyone else will understand your decision to place your life in My hands. Others worry and go through sometimes even more intense struggles watching a loved one pass through great suffering. Many times they seem to suffer with doubts and agonize over trying to find faith even more than the one facing the suffering.

It’s because the one in the midst of the suffering has added grace to face what I’ve allowed. I give them that grace. But the one watching from the outside doesn’t have that grace. It may be harder for some of those who love you to accept that this could be My best in your life than it is for you. So have patience with them. As they see your faith shining through, it will give them the comfort that I’ve given you something extra, a peace that surpasses the understanding of the mind, and this will with time give them the faith to trust that we walked through this time together.

I asked Phoebe, “If you make your trip to heaven in the near future, which seems likely, do you have any particular wishes for those who will stay behind, any ways in which they could commemorate your passing into the other world? If they were going to do something in honor of you, what would you want them to do?”

She said, “I would like to see people trust people more, to look deeper, to see beyond the obvious, to not judge each other, to accept each other as each person is and to be willing to sacrifice more for others; putting others first instead of themselves.”

I was very impressed that her desires were pointed toward the happiness of others, wanting to love others unconditionally without judging them, to do as Jesus wanted us to do: to love our neighbors as ourselves, which, when you think of it, does wonderful things for not only the receiver but also the giver. It truly is the key to happiness for all.

Here is something very beautiful and faith-building that Phoebe’s parents shared with me shortly before her death.

With all Phoebe is experiencing, we have to say a real beauty and grace is shining through. She’s been through some very difficult times these past months, and yet through God’s unlimited grace she’s hung on to her faith, in spite of it all. She’s clinging. She’s letting all that’s been a part of her life for so many years come to the fore. She’s letting Jesus give her dying grace, and by so doing, she’s impacting all our lives in very special and unique ways.

We feel it’s important to let this touch our lives, to let this experience of watching her dying grace fill us with the same love and warmth that she is experiencing. We want to allow it to help draw us closer to our greatest strength-giver, Jesus. To let it also fill us with love, compassion, and peace as we continue on our journeys. It’s a chance to learn that if we’ll stay close to Him, He’ll give us the same. We’re all watching dying grace in action, and it’s stunning! We can only praise and thank Him for this and for all He is doing in Phoebe’s life—and ours—at this time!

Here’s the link to Phoebe’s blog, where you’ll find some very inspiring posts. Her posts speak of the thoughts, struggles, and victories of someone who has bravely run the race and has turned what many would see as overwhelming setbacks into wonderful victories and testimonies.

As I reflected further on Phoebe’s faith, the following thoughts came to me: For most, facing the possibility of dying in the immediate future can be a scary proposition. On top of the prospect of severe pain or other suffering, Phoebe struggled with leaving friends and loved ones here. She felt concern for them and the pain that they were experiencing and will experience. And of course, heaven, as much as we have learned about it, isn’t something we can see yet with our eyes to encourage us. It’s a walk of faith.

Phoebe’s choice to not continue pursuing another possible course of treatment did not mean that she had given up. Her decision to place herself in the Lord’s hands, regardless of the outcome, did not mean that she lacked faith for healing, nor that she had lost her fight, her convictions, or her soldier spirit.

Some people’s very difficult decisions that they make at certain crucial moments in their lives can never be completely understood by others, because this is when they and God stand alone, having a private conversation with each other.

Phoebe, in my opinion, demonstrated great faith and trust and dependence on the Lord, in all that she endured. She continued to look into His face through far more than most of us can imagine. She understood suffering and pain and all the fears, doubts, and struggles that so often accompany such circumstances better and more personally than most. She had a strong connection with the Lord to have turned all she had already faced into a wonderful testimony of trust and love for Him and confidence that He loved her so much that He was going to give her the very best.

Who can say that the Lord didn’t encourage her that it was time to come home? The Lord was perfectly capable of healing Phoebe totally, just as He has many others.

The psalmist proclaimed, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”[1] I originally thought the context of this verse was that of being a martyr, but it is actually given in the context of a time of great suffering.

Phoebe did not preclude the fact that God could at the very last minute unexpectedly say, “Phoebe, this has been a test which you have passed with flying colors, so now I’m going to miraculously heal you.” It could have happened if it had been His will. Sometimes God does surprising things at the very end of some process. Sometimes He changes things at the last minute for reasons known only to Him, and only understood by Him. But as in all things, He instructs us to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Phoebe’s times were in the Lord’s hands, and I’m proud of Phoebe for having taken the stand that she personally felt at peace with in her heart. That to me is the most powerful testimony of faith. Job’s greatest testimony wasn’t, “Okay Lord, I’m going to prove how much I trust You by trying to convince You to heal me and fix everything.” It was, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”[2]

Job wasn’t doubting God or lacking faith in His power to do the seemingly impossible. Quite the opposite; his trust in God was so great that he was declaring that no set of circumstances would cause him to doubt or let go of his trust in God. Faith is complete and total trust in Jesus to do what He alone knows is best for us, because of His unlimited love for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.”[3]


A special thank-you to Mark and Maria and Anim (mother of dear little William) for receiving Phoebe in your peaceful home in the countryside for her last months. We are grateful that she was surrounded by her parents and younger siblings (who had moved from Indonesia in order to be with her), as well as visited by the rest of her personal family and many loved ones, and was happy to live her last days in the place of her choosing. We are deeply touched by your love and care, your faith and Christian example.

Jerry Paladino has written a beautiful song which you can find at the bottom of this gnb article about Phoebe.

[1] Psalm 116:15.

[2] Job 13:15.

[3] Proverbs 3:5–6 NLT.