The Sting of Illness. The Reality of Heaven. The Privilege of Suffering.
Last week I wrote of Love, and of the beautiful, mysterious pain that accompanies such a surrender of emotion. When I typed those words, I formed them in the context of watching my child graduate kindergarten. They were framed in the knowledge that Love requires separation, and in my innocent state of mind, I could only see the separation of parent and child that comes through space and time.
Then we got the phone call no one wants to receive.
There was a mass. The biopsy reveals cancer. We wait and we pray, and we hope for the best – the miracle of healing. Today the confirmation brought unwelcome news.
Stage 4. Metastatic.
Suddenly the pain of Love grew wings and took flight. Lee’s dad – our patriarch, our hero, our mentor, and a steady spiritual guide – now faces a fight that, short of a miraculous touch from God Himself, will result in his passing from this life on earth and into the gates of heaven.
Lee and I have gathered our flock tight these last few days, clinging to one another as we slide down into yet another trough.
“…Now it may surprise you to learn that in His (God’s) efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks;some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
There is no irony in our present circumstance. We cannot point to these days with a flippant laugh and label them a coincidence. For on the very day we got news that cancer had invaded one we loved, Lee was in process to make a transition at work.
His division was cut loose from the company. We’d known this for weeks, and while the news was met with some disappointment, suddenly it seemed that he had lost his job for such a time as this.
Severance gives him a cushion to absorb the blow of his father’s illness. We have the freedom to leave, he and I, for the weekend, and fly to Arkansas where we will fold into the arms of his parents and brothers and all face this new challenge in the race together.
What a privilege it is…
When we told our kids of their grandfather’s illness, I felt a tightness pinch my heart. My sweet little ones will now taste the sting of illness. They can no longer be sheltered from the fear of grieving and, given the statistics, they may face the searing pain of death far earlier than I would have wanted them to.
And yet I cannot escape the thought that this journey we are about to walk as a family is a privilege. One thought has rumbled across my heart all day as I’ve processed this pain of a Love torn.
What a privilege it is for my children to know the sting of illness and the reality of heaven at a tender age.
We’re gearing up for a road filled with hope and unknowns. We cry out for a miracle, with full belief that God, in His mighty power, is capable of banishing the cancer from Herb’s body with a simple touch of His Hand. We pray for this, that we may show our children the power of God, and proclaim Him to the world.
We accept the reality that God may have a different path planned. One in which we must say goodbye far sooner than we ever hoped or imagined or desired. And if this is the path we must follow, we will show our children the power of God, and we will proclaim Him to the world.
Cancer is an ugly word. It sucks the marrow of joy right out of a soul. But we have been given the grace of time. We pray it will be longer than the statistics predict. We pray it will be sweeter than the treatment’s effects. We rejoice in our current state of jobless unknowns, for it gives us the sweet freedom of time to process.
What a privilege it is to walk this road of grief and hope, for in this trough I feel God so near. He is real, a balm to the sting.
My ten year old and I took a walk today. Hand in hand we made our way down the sidewalk, and his sweet innocence blessed me.
“I’m excited to see heaven now,” he said to me, a smile spread across his face. “I can just imagine it, and what I’m imagining is awesome.”
What a privilege it is to walk this pain. We covet your prayers in the days, weeks, and months to come. They will be hard, and they will be sweet. They will mirror the mystery of Love.