Monday, December 10, 2012

Eight Years

Yesterday, O popped open the number nine door on his advent calendar and found a star-shaped chocolate.  He savoured the waxy chocolate; I savoured the moment.  In the midst of the frenetic bustle that is Sunday morning in our house, I paused for just a moment to hold my four year old, my arm around my one year old on the couch beside me; the children we thought we'd never have.  I could hear my husband preparing his coffee in the kitchen.  We used to be the "no-coffee duo" but he took a sudden liking to coffee a couple of years ago.  Things can change in a  matter of years, or in a matter of seconds.

Yesterday, eight years ago was the worst day of my life.  For a long while, every day after that was the worst day of my life.  I used to mentally run through the events of that time in my life habitually, like a recording in my mind jammed onto repeat mode.  Last night, while brushing my teeth before bed, I let the recollections of those days bounce around in my mind again.  A torrent of emotions formed one sentence on my lips: "I was so scared."  I was overcome with emotion when I remembered how utterly scared I was.  Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma was my husband's diagnosis that day, a very large diffuse large b-cell primary mediastinal tumour.  I slept at my parents' house that night, while he waited to be transferred from Langley to Vancouver General Hospital.  The glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling were still there from when I stuck them up there in my teens.  I think I stared at them all night long, numb.

I remember making phone calls, frantic phone calls that first night, and agonizing phone calls throughout the next day.  I remember the ER doctor in Langley hugging us, and saying "This is shitty."  Thank you, Lord, for people who break protocol and reach out to the broken.  I remember waiting for my husband to get out of surgery, and wanting to be there for any bit of news that the doctors would give him.  The guilt of not being with him the first time cancer was mentioned earlier that day still visits me regularly.  I remember walking through the drugstore a few streets away on a quick break from the hospital later that week and feeling angry, though I knew it wasn't justified, that people were just going about their regular lives, and Christmas music was blaring in every store.  Didn't they know?  I remember agonizing about the news that awaited my in-laws upon their return from a cruise.  I thought about our second wedding anniversary, just a few weeks away, about the life with children we had imagined.  About life together.  I thought that it was more than we could bear.  This wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

It was a desperate time of seeking answers, but not wanting to hear them at the same time.  I asked for numbers, and chances, and statistics, and wanted to un-know the answers as soon as I heard them.  I pored over scripture and stories of hearings, and prayed more than I had ever prayed before.  I wanted to know what the outcome was going to be, and I wanted to know why this was happening.  After eight years, I know that the 'why' isn't always the point.  I would have hated to hear that at the time, but it's starting to make sense to me now.  Is there any answer that would satisfy the need to understand intense suffering in this life?

One thing I do know is compassion.  Our God is full of compassion for us.  I wrote in a previous post about when our friend/pastor at the time came and visited us that first week in the hospital:  He prayed for us and reminded us of this story of Jesus weeping.  Here is a saviour who wept, all too acquainted with the immeasurable sorrow of death in this world.  When I imagine Christ weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus, I imagine him weeping not only for his personal loss of a dear friend, but at the greater sense of loss.  I think he wept knowing, more than any of us, that this is not the way things are supposed to be.

We experienced such compassion from other people during that terrible time.  There were people who were truly the hands and feet of Jesus to us in those days.  Doctors and nurses cared for us with genuine care and selfless dedication in their time and efforts.  We were incredibly blessed to have friends who became as family to us, and to have family who managed to hold us together despite their own grief, stress, and fragility.  People, many of whom I'm sure I'll never even meet, who heard our story and prayed for us, bringing us before the One who heals.  I'm so thankful for all of these people who cared for us; it was like they placed us in the intersecting portion of a Venn diagram of how to care for two very broken people.

Most of all, I'm thankful to God for healing my husband.  For giving us two beautiful, sweet baby boys after we were told that we likely wouldn't be able to conceive.  For continuing to teach me that God is good, God can be trusted, and teaching me to give up the burden of worry and anxiety.  I'm reminded in this season of advent that God has compassion on us, and our brokenness in this world, compassion that brought the King of Kings to enter into our world.

German paper nativity scene, 1885 (Wikipedia)


  1. What a beautiful, heart wrenching post. I'm on a cot with Lauren sleeping in the hospital bed beside me and I feel like nights like these are so hard. Thank you for sharing this! Praise the Lord that your family are all healthy today. What a blessing!

  2. I clearly recall being on the receiving end of one of those phone calls - a rare time when I can remember exactly what I was doing, what my house looked like etc. as it was all such a shock. What an awful, helpless time that was for you two. It was humbling to be on the periphery, so hard to know how to help and yet thoughts never far away from you both. We, too, give thanks that God brought you through that time of great darkness and has blessed you with health and two beautiful boys.

  3. I remember calling you too, Ann. I was talking to my Dad the other day and he said the same kind of thing - he'll never forget that phone call, or where he was, etc. It's lousy knowing that you are about to give people the worst kind of news.

    We should video chat sometime soon with the kids! Hope you are doing well!

  4. Thanks, Amanda. We are praying for Lauren's next surgery to happen soon and for no complications!


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