Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Letter to Dawn of one year ago...

Dear Dawn,

Today will be a pivotal day in your life.  You will get a phone call from an oncology nurse that will change a lot of things around you and inside of you, but it won't change who you are.  You know deep down inside that you can get through hard things--you have always known that.  Today and in days to come that will be put to the test. Always remember that you're stronger than you think you are.

Over the next year you will find yourself surrounded by the most remarkable support system.  You won't be able to escape it.  It will be as overwhelming as the news you received today about your cancer.   This amazing group will be made up of your husband, your children, your families, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your fellow church members and even complete strangers.  They will encourage you with hugs, phone calls, gifts,  text messages, emails, cards, food and prayers that will keep you going through the most difficult days.  Let that group of people help you even when it's hard to accept it.  Some days the help might be something that's equally important for them to do as it is for you to receive.  Don't be too proud to take the help that's lovingly offered to you. 

Rest assured, you will be tended to by the most amazing doctors.  They will be more than doctors, they will become your friends, your team members.  You will cry in their offices and laugh at their jokes.  They will look you in the eyes and tell you that they can help you and they will mean it.  They will ask you where your strength comes from.  Don't ever, ever miss an opportunity to tell them where your strength and comfort comes from.  

You're going to pound your fists on your steering wheel and cry hot, angry tears when you hear this difficult news.  Get it out.  Tell God how angry you are and how it doesn't seem fair to your little family.  He can handle it.  He created every cell in your broken body and he's catching every tear in his very capable hands. In the next year you will learn to love and rely upon him more than you ever dreamed possible.  He will be there in the cold, dark nights and he will greet you each morning with a fresh day.  He will bring you emails, cards and conversations at the exact moment that you need them.  He will make your witness strong and will give you so many opportunities to encourage people even as you struggle.  

Here's the truth, chemo will suck.  I mean really, really suck.  Night 4 will be the worst.  On those Monday nights you will cry yourself to sleep.  You will feel awful physically and emotionally.  The darkness will be heavy.  Let that be your day to sink into the sadness.  Let it go dark for a while because I promise you the sun will rise again the next morning.  Trust me. 

You will come to love those people who work with you at the oncology clinic.  They will totally be able to sense that you're not a big fan of being part of their club and they will kindly serve you and tend to you in spite of your stand-offish ways.  After a year, they will greet you by name and you will ask them about their kids.  Take a minute to talk to the chatty lady next to you who's got the battle scars of a tough cancer road.  Let her encourage you.  In a year, you'll be the one telling someone that they're in good hands and they'll be just fine.

And don't be too hard on yourself.  This year you will be tempted to handle your cancer and your obstacles better than anyone else ever has.  You're going to be crabby and short with your kids.  Your house is going to get messy and the laundry will pile up.  Go to bed early when you need it.  Just for the record there is no special prize for being the best at handling tough days.  The gift is getting through them and getting a new one each morning.

You know how your brother once told you that he liked to climb mountains because he wanted to see how hard he could push himself.  It's going to be that kind of year.  This year will force you to dig deep and figure out where your strength comes from.  You will learn to love, love, love the verse, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  You will feel weak, but you will also feel God's power.  Your roots will be growing deep even when your leaves are scattered on the cold ground.  

Last but not least.  You will laugh.  Read that again because you're not going to believe it today, but you will laugh often.  You will feel joy, real joy.  Soak in those times and use them to get you through the days where laughter doesn't come as easily.  Remember when the kids were little and everyone was crabby and Eric would say at the dinner table, "I don't think we've had a good laugh today yet" and we would force ourselves to laugh until it kicked in and we were all really laughing.  Do that.  A lot.

So in closing, hang in there.  When you're sad be really sad and when you're happy don't apologize for it.  

And not to spoil the ending, but everything's going to be alright.  



PS.  You're going to love your new boobs and cute bras are definitely in your future.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Can't Wish Him Back

For a couple of reasons, today I ended up logging into my Caring Bridge account.  There I found the long list of sites I have followed over the years.   It's a rough list.  As I look down the line there are very few who haven't passed on or are on a health road that is far from easy.  Out of nowhere, I decided that I wanted to read the last updates around Eric's surgery which took place well over two years ago.  I don't know that I could have read these six months ago or even six days ago, but today I needed to remember my thoughts and feelings at that season of my life.

Sometimes you have to look backwards to really see how far you've come.  The voice of those entries was really trying to be brave, to put a happy face on the heaviness that was happening within her own four walls.  I could feel the fear of the unknown and the relentless waves of disappointment.  Those were difficult days and my heart breaks for the struggles that Eric endured as he recovered from that last surgery.  I would sleep out on the couch while he tried to find maybe one hour of comfort in the recliner.  I would hear him get up in the night and pray that I wouldn't hear him hit the floor if he passed out.  There was physical pain and there was emotional uncertainty.  I have nothing but respect for the courage he showed in dealing with it all.  Those were incredibly tiring and tedious times in our life.

What would life be like if I were still adding journal entries to his story?  What if there were more entries around a surgery in December or a trip down to Mayo in the spring?  Selfishly, I want him back at my dinner table, behind the wheel driving my kids to their activities and looking at me from his pillow as I prattle on about my day.  That's what I want and when I imagine it, he's healthy and strong. When I look back at those journal entries I know that we were saved pain and suffering.  We were saved a decline in Eric's health that would have no doubt been difficult.  What I'm saying is that God's divine timing is perfect, even when it's perfectly painful,

As I read each entry on his site, I had to admit these words to myself, I wouldn't want him back.  I wouldn't want him to wake up short of breath one more time, I wouldn't want him to have to make one more trip to the ER, to have to pause one more time, winded, at the top of a staircase.  I love him enough not to want that for him even though I can feel his immense love for us in the way he bravely battled the broken heart God gave him. I am glad he fought, but I'm grateful that he can now rest.

I found two different updates that I wanted to share from the journal entries.

From May 2, 2102  "A bruised reed He will not break."  To be very honest, we've felt more bruised in the last several weeks than we ever have in our lives and this promise is one that we cling to.  We are thankful that God never gives us more than we can handle and that he surrounds us with people to hold us up when we go through periods of trial.  This is all part of our story and we thank you for the roles which you play in it.

What I've learned in the past year is that God almost always gives us more than we can handle. That's how he designs it so that we absolutely have to lean into his strong arms for comfort, for guidance and for strength.  He doesn't expect us to go it alone.  He provides his strength through his promises, his hope and through a thousand different people who come alongside you, give you encouraging words or simply warm your day with a smile as you pass in the hallway.  

From March 7, 2012  Part of me thinks that I should write some really mushy stuff but in truth if you like that kind of stuff you probably get 4 emails forwarded to you each week full of that.  I do appreciate your prayers for my health and especially for Dawn and the kids.  They are real troopers and I am very proud of how they manage all of this.  
Thanks again. Eric

The second paragraph is one that was written by Eric on the eve of his last big surgery.  I think it shows his always present sense of humor and his gratitude for the overwhelming support for our family.  I also think it's what he would still say to all of you who have loved us so well over this last year. 

I had completely forgotten about the little note he asked me to post on March 7, 2012.  Maybe I was supposed to forget about it so that I could rediscover it today when I needed to hear his love, his humor and his encouragement to his family.  I'd be lying to you if I said that I don't spend considerable time wondering what Eric would think of how we're doing today.  Now I think I know.