There I sat on the hospital room bed, looking out the window at the snow falling. Valentine's Day cards from friends at home were tucked in my bag, others lay stacked on the bedside table. Cancer and Valentine's for some reason just don't go together. Yet there we sat, my Mom and I, on each side of my sister, Beth, and read to her the dozens of cards she'd received with love and well wishes sent through the mail. It didn't seem to matter to us that she'd been dead nearly an hour, we were determined to read every last letter to her. At the time it seemed logical. As morbid as it sounds, I remember that I kept wiping blood from her mouth as it ran from her hemorrhaged organs, looking for somewhere to go. The doctors claimed victory because her body was free of leukemia. What a shame that the drugs used to fight it would ultimately cause her organs to explode.....That was twenty four years ago, February 14, 1986. Just twenty four years after my parents buried my 9-year old brother, Danny, who also died of leukemia in 1962.
I share this with you because it explains so much about who I am and where I came from. It explains the sadness that permeated our family for years; the tears that were quietly shed before each holiday gathering without them. Why the cemetery is a familiar hangout. It's why I wanted more than two children. And it's why my Daddy always tells young parents that he sees at the grocery store (people he doesn't know) to "hug your children and tell them you love them every day." But even more than that, it explains why I'm not afraid.
I can assure you that when my brother and sister were sick, there were thousands upon thousands of prayers for their complete recovery from all over this country. Just like there has been for me. And as believers, we feel comforted knowing that God is listening. Much like a child is comforted when he knows his Daddy is close enough to hear his cries for help when he's spooked in the middle of the night. But when prayers aren't answered, at least the way we want them to be, we sometimes question our so called "blind" faith and begin to doubt God's intent. But having walked the path that I have, I want to assure you that God's plan, while not always visible to the naked eye, becomes strikingly clear as time passes.
When Beth died, my cousin Charlotte told me a story that has stuck with me over the years. She described a baby in his mothers womb, all warm and cozy, well fed and thoroughly loved. It was his world, the only one he knew. And quite abruptly, he went through this very traumatic experience that took him from the world that he knew, to a very different world. But low and behold, it was a place where he felt even greater love, unconditional love from his Mother and Father. (at least that's how it's suppose to be) It was the end of one existence and the beginning of another. For some reason, since then I've been comforted with the idea of that elementary comparison to life and death.
I was reminded in a sermon this week about Simon Peters unsuccessful fishing experience. Tired and frustrated from fishing all night with no success, he listened as Jesus told him to take the boat out again, even further, to much deeper waters. Begrudgingly, Simon agreed to listen to Jesus and though completely exhausted, paddled his boat to the deep waters that Jesus had insisted he go. Needless to say, the fishermen nearly effortlessly caught more fish than their boat could hold. Simon Peter listened to Jesus and went farther and deeper than he ever had and became a believer and disciple of Christ as a result.
I don't know if I'm in deep enough waters right now, but I must admit, God has been preparing me for this event for a very long time. He takes me out a little bit farther a little bit deeper every time.......... I can't begin to know the outcome of this whole cancer thing, but quite frankly, it's irrelevant. God's will is just that. Just like my cups, my boat is running over with God's bounty! What I do know is what waits for me on the other side of this place-- and that's one delivery that I'm eager to make.
I had my 9th and final chemo treatment yesterday. When the snow began to fall that morning, it was surreal. What a beautiful and very meaningful day. Scans and surgery to follow. I can't begin to thank all of you for the prayers and gifts of love over the last few months. Truly, my cups runneth over.