Sunday, March 30, 2014

v45 When Words Fail

"No, I don't go to church," she said to me, in response to my question after we'd just met in the bathroom at City of Hope. "We stopped going."

I saw it in her eyes. Something I'd never dealt with before. And I was ill-equipped and unprepared for the rest of her answer.

"My husband just died from Cancer a few months ago. And now my sister is dying," she said.

Her stare challenged me to say something back to that. I looked down, fumbling for what I was going to say next.

"Well, there's always hope (like the sign says when you first drive in to the front of City of Hope, as well as the many scripture references in the Bible). You never know. Maybe..." I trailed off because I knew she was going to stop me. I would have stopped me if I were her, too.

"No, she's on hospice," she said, talking over me. And then continued with a barrage of details so painful I winced as she laid them out for me to see.

Words failed me at that moment. I could think of nothing to say. And everything that I thought of would seem patronizing, trite and clearly lacking personal experience.

I told her I'd pray for her and asked for the names of her and her sister.

I have prayed for them both many times.

                                                         ____________________

I caught sight of the cute smile, chubby cheeks and striking blue eyes after reading she'd died at the tender age of four two years ago.

I saw my daughter in her face and wept.

"It's not fair!" I prayed to God.

I stumbled across her blog because I was looking for the cancer blog that Ryan had been following. He said the person who had Stage IV lung cancer was now on hospice. Being our age and fighting it for years, it gave Ryan some encouragement and hope, until he read the latest post.

I found out the woman I'd been following with Stage IV lung cancer died a few months back, which is why she hadn't posted in a while.

I wept bitter tears and wanted something good to come out of all this pain.

I wanted to know the antidote to failed words.
                                                  __________________________

A friend of mine posted a blog on her Facebook page titled Brendan's Bible Blessings. Intrigued, I read their story and found out their 12 year old son had brain cancer and died five weeks after his diagnosis.

I couldn't believe they only got five weeks together.

I was stunned.

I read that the family is donating bibles to kids with Cancer and asking for donations to help spread the gospel during the most difficult time in any family's life.

It was a good word!

Then, I saw that a Mom who'd lost her courageous and musically gifted son to cancer wrote a book about it. Maybe you've heard of his Number 1 hit song "Clouds" on YouTube? Here's a link to the website: http://flyalittlehigher.com/

And a glimmer of hope, again.

____________________________

I see the young widow in a lot of places. And when I close my eyes, I see her still.

I pray for her as I read her posts on Facebook, ache for her loss, and hope we don't walk the same path. When I see her in person, I often don't know what to say. I neatly avoid the things I don't want to hear other people tell me.

I know I don't want to add to her grief. Words are failing me, again.

I hear Ryan tossing and turning in the bed and pray that the cancer is gone. I want Ryan to be one of those people who just keeps going. I don't want to be her.

Then, as I pray about the future and slowing down my pace to "take one day at a time" like everyone tells me to - I think about how it "rains on the just and the unjust."

There aren't any free passes out of this life, to avoid pain and suffering. It happens to us all.

And when words fail, then love prevails.

I know how to hug someone, how to listen, and smile. I know how to offer to pray for them, then pray for them often. And I even know how to send an encouraging text of love and scripture, too - or a DaySpring card because the card already says most of what I want to say. And I can make some pretty yummy baked goods, too.

Words often fail me, but love doesn't.

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Thursday, March 27, 2014

v45 Keep Living Life

It felt normal today to walk into City of Hope, as though that's what we've always done. There was something familiar about meeting with the staff, having the nurses greet their "City of Hope baby" (who is officially now 2 years old!), and watching Dr. Lim make duck noises during the tea party he had with Talitha, interspersed between checking Ryan's liver and blood levels.

I recently told a friend it doesn't change, it doesn't get any easier. I don't feel like things are "easier" now than they were two years ago before we knew what to expect. But they are definitely more "routine" and "known."

It seems the unknown is what gets you. It eats you up if you let it. That's why the Bible says not to worry about tomorrow.

Today was round 45 for Ryan's infusions. It's literally been two years. And now Dr. Lim is talking about "maintenance chemo" - spreading out the treatments to every three weeks instead of two.

He has repeatedly told us that amidst all the bad that has recently happened, that we must "keep living life." So that's what we're going to do.

Just keep living.
                                            ________________________________

This past week my 44 year old brother, who has Down syndrome, came from northern California to stay with us for almost a week. Yes, he flew on a plane by himself, even though his IQ is 30! And he lives alone, with a supported living roommate. He really wanted to go to Disneyland and we took him, compliments of my Dad (thanks Dad!) We enjoyed it, even though the crowds were immense and amusement parks aren't really our thing.

Spending time with my brother reminded me of my Mom, and vice versa. I missed my first grief class at church because we were at Disneyland until late in the evening, but I haven't seen him, except twice, briefly after my Mom died, in almost two years. So I feel okay with my decision to miss it and just go next week.

Seeing him this week also reminded me that I usually only see my brother with my Mom, never alone. But some things haven't changed. He still loves McDonald's hamburgers, listening to CD's, and his sister. He's still friendly and doesn't like to be mothered.

His hearing impairment has intensified, unless it's just an increase of his stubbornness. It's funny that I cannot tell the difference.

The nicest compliment he gave was that he didn't talk about leaving the whole time he was here (like he usually does). In fact, he wanted to stay another day and said he and I were getting a new apartment in two weeks! He gave me a big hug before he left on the plane and said he'd miss me.

I told him I love him and kissed him on the cheek. I watched him board the plane without looking back.

He's living life. Even though my Mom was told at his birth that he wouldn't live past 10 and if he did, he wouldn't be able to do anything. Boy were they WRONG! He's almost 45 and enjoying his life, in a simple and humble way.

It's a way of living we can all learn from.

                                             _____________________________

It's 11 p.m. and Ryan's on the couch, feeling tired from chemo, but energized while looking at forums about his latest new remote control toy quad-copter.

The days leading up to chemo and the days he's on it are always stressful. But now there's a familiar rhythm that comes with the territory we've been over 44 other times.

Neither of us want to be doing this anymore. But, we also don't want the alternative.

We're glad the chemo is still working.

I will continue to ask everyone who will listen to pray for my husband's cancer to go away. I will still pray for it to disappear through God's divine intervention since the doctor's tell us they cannot make it disappear through modern medicine.

And we will just keep living life, for however long God gives us, together.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

v44 Air Hockey Love

Ryan was grinning ear to ear that he'd won the first round of air hockey games, but I knew I'd crush him quickly on the next game. I couldn't let him win!

It was our second month of dating and since he'd never been on a helicopter ride, I thought I would surprise him by chartering a helicopter to Catalina for Valentine's Day. We were in the Arcade on Catalina Island when I was pounded and crushed by Ryan's mad air hockey skills.

As the games wore on, to someone who is completely competitive, losing over and again just wasn't fun. It was strange, but I wasn't used to it. I was used to winning, usually by the sheer luck of things. This time it was obvious I'd met my match.

He kept winning.

Seven games later and more tears than that, I asked to stop. I was defeated and a very sore loser. It's a good thing Ryan has a good sense of timing and said he'd take us on a golf cart ride around Avalon. Ironically, I have so many good memories from that golf cart ride and it's rare that I think of losing at air hockey that day.

Love does that, I guess.

                                          _________________________________________

Fast forward about eight years, and we're at it again - this time, on the go cart track in Irvine. It seems Ryan feels confident he's going to win ALL of the races, by sheer virtue of the fact that he's a man, and loves to push my buttons by saying stuff like that in jest.

Pride comes before a fall, just as the Bible says.

I asked him what his secret to go cart racing was. The funny thing, even though I didn't expect it, he told me his secret.

I followed his lead - and I won the next race. That is the ONLY time I've ever beat him at something, and it was by 0.01 seconds. But STILL, it counts!!!

                                            ________________________________________

I have definitely been humbled in competitions against Ryan, unlike most other competitions that had a fair balance of I win some and so do they. (Okay, except for that time my grandma beat me at cards, 13 out of 13 hands, in a row. And I, in similar fashion, went into my bedroom and cried, not wanting to play anymore. But at least I can use the excuse about my silly childishness because I was 13 at the time.)

Yet when I look back on my "big win" with Ryan, and the fact that it was 0.01 seconds -- that number seems so trivial.

But it's not.

It was that same, exact number that told Ryan's primary care doctor to refer him to a GI (Gastroenterologist) specialist because it exposed the fact that he was anemic.

0.01

And I think about our similar this is to our sins, how we're so sick either in word, thought or deed -- and even if it were just 0.01 points away from perfect, it wouldn't be good enough for us to get close to a holy and righteous God.

The Bible says we are all sinners, and all fall short of God's standards.

All of us.

Yet, God gives us a way to correct the situation, much like Ryan's doctor referred him to a specialist. Jesus Christ is our sin specialist - He died on the cross to take away our sins and make things right with our relationship to God.

In the end, winning doesn't really matter. But our relationship with Jesus Christ and God, does.