Friday, October 28, 2011

Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

It's that time of has been a tough time for our family for the last few years.  This was the time of year we were doing surgery.  This was the time of year that Layne was in his most desperate fight.  It is the time of year that David lost his daughter, Maggie.

This morning, I was doing some grading and a Facebook message came across about my good friend Carol,with whom I bonded immediately because of our similar situations. Carol and I met through a friend we shared, and we had lunch one day at Panera Bread.  The food was great, the fellowship was balm to both our souls.

"Do you feel this?"  I asked timidly.

"Yes! And I have thought I was the only one!" she burst out. "Do you feel guilty when..."

My reply of course was, "Yes!"  And the entire conversation went that way.  We dreamed of starting a course to give hope to those who are dealing with cancer.  A course that would provide hope, and compassion for the caregivers.  Someone to say "Yes, we have been there," and "No, you are not a bad person."

 The Facebook message informed me that Carol's husband, John, had lost his battle with cancer.  When I read the news, I was immediately taken in my mind to a hospital room, where I again watched  my husband pass from my arms into the arms of Christ.  My heart sobbed for her, because I know the anguish, and I know the path that lies ahead for her.

First, she will want time to grieve, time to just scream at the Lord and ask why she has had to live this difficult path and then was rewarded with loss.  It seems that we are programmed to expect reward after extreme effort, and everything within us feels cheated.

Friends who mean well will tell her that is "for the best" that "he is at peace."  She knows this.  She, however, is now a widow.  Her friend, her confidant, her love, is gone.  She is alone.  If you have never lost a spouse, you cannot know the depth of that sorrow, the breadth of that solitude.  In a room full of people, you will still be alone.  A single.   While yes, in the long run, all things work together for our good, it certainly feels as if God has turned his face and has walked away from you at times like this.

My good friend Connie sent me the most amazing card when Layne died.  It didn't have any sweet but "usual" sentiments.  It said something along the lines of  "This is not fair.  You were supposed to grow old and decrepit together."  Finally, I thought, someone understands.

It isn't fair that Carol has lost her husband.  They made promises to one another in front of God, and they looked forward to growing old together.  She was going to tell him of her day, he was going to tell her of his.  They were going to laugh at inane television shows, and they were going to do wonderful things for God.  They were going to keep those shared memories, and have private jokes that only they understood.  Now, she is the only one who understands.  She is the only one who knows what her deepest fears, needs, and desires are.  For at least a while, no one else will understand.

It is then that God lets you know, in the most subtle of ways, that He is still your Father, and He still understands.  He reminds you that He has carried you thus far, and indeed, though you no longer want to walk, His arms are there to carry you.

Indeed, Carol will be carried.  I know this because I have lived it.  When she raises her fist, He will reach down and dry her tears.  He'll show her compassion that is much more deep than even her closest friend can provide.  He will provide to her through amazing ways.  Others may scoff, but I know this will be her reality, because I have walked the path.

What can her friends give Carol?  Compassion.  Understanding.  Grace.  She may not travel the widow's walk the way that you think you would.  But you cannot know until you have been faced with the financial, emotional, and physical devastation that cancer brings.  So be graceful.  Be blessed by the blessings she receives.  Praise God for the good days, and shelter her in the bad days with prayer.  Be her friend, not her judge.  Be her advocate, not her adviser.  Be there for tears, but when she is ready, allow her also to find happiness.

She's been sad long enough.  She's been saying goodbye long enough.  It's time for her to allow herself to say hello to all that God can and will provide in her future.  And He will.  Because, He loves her.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Journey In His Hands

It is time to move this blog from the Carepages site to a regular blog.  I don't want to continue to take up space on a site needed by those who are ill.  For those who are new to this blog, who would like information about our previous experience, you can find us on the site, under this same name.

Last night, we went to see the movie "Courageous."  What an amazing film.  In the opening scene, there is an incident that reminded me very much of Layne.  In this scene, a man takes an incredible, life threatening risk, laying down is life, in effect, for his son.  After the scene, two other characters are commenting, and one asks the other, "Would you have done that?"

The men never really answer the question, but I knew as I watched that Layne would certainly have done the same thing.  I know this because he DID do the same thing.

Cancer is very painful.  It is debilitating.  Layne could have stopped his treatment at any time.  I often told him that when he was done fighting, we would be ready to support that decision.  Yet he fought on.  As his body began to die, his kidneys shut down, his stomach closed off at the bottom, and limbs actually began to die.  Yet, he fought on.

Why did he fight?  It wasn't for himself.  I think that he probably knew when the nurse indicated he needed to be intubated that it might be his last effort.  But he had a living will.  In that living will, he insisted that as a family, we take all measures.  He did this because he believed in life.  He was fighting with his own body for his children and their children, so that they would not be deemed unnecessary, and allowed to die when treatments existed.  He lived as a pro-lifer, and he wanted to pass into his Savior's arms in the way he had lived.  He did these things to live and die courageously, for his family and his friends.

He and I often had conversations about Christian men, and how the church can impact men into taking their responsibilities seriously.  As we walked through cancer, it became evident that the things that most men base their value upon--their ability to provide financially, their ability to care for cars and homes, was actually the thing that was MOST replaceable.  Layne's value as a man was not in those things, it was in the spiritual guidance he provided and the expectations he set for his children.  He expected his sons to be men of God.  He expected his daughters to be women of faith.

The movie brings a great message about the type of courage that is required to adhere to the guidance for fathers that is found in the Bible.  What is wonderful about the movie is that it reflects two great scriptural truths:  First, God loves us and is ready to forgive--life decisions that we have made poorly can be changed.  God is always there to help us move forward from where he finds us.  There is always hope, even in the darkest of storms. Second, even if we don't have examples to follow on earth, the Bible is always our guide.  He has not left us without a path to follow.  If you search diligently, your role as a mom or dad are clearly defined in God's love letter to us.

What a great impact this movie can have.  Take your neighbor, take your brother, take your small group!