Monday, June 22, 2015

Six Years Later

Six years ago this month I was struggling through the worst trauma of my life. I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I was expecting our second child. What did the future hold for me? How would we treat the cancer? What was the best way to do it? Would our baby be safe? Would I live long enough for her to know or remember me? The questions were crushing, and there was nothing to do but keep getting out of bed and trying to tackle each day as it came.

Six years later that baby is an active kindergarten graduate.
Our then-toddler is a bustling, busy eight year old.
And we've been incredibly blessed to give them two younger sisters.

Sometimes I like to reflect on all the beauties I gained from that terrible trauma.

Life can change in an instant.
On the morning of my diagnosis we woke up thinking we were going to have a normal day together as a family. Within a few hours that had all changed forever. Sometimes we think we know what will happen to us and what we should do, but we really don't. Live life well. Express love. Serve and care for people around you. Pause to experience beauty and joy. You never know when the life you have now may change forever.

Tell them you love them.
In the hours and days that followed my diagnosis, we called a lot of friends and relatives to share our news. I was quickly surprised by how much love everyone expressed. People who don't normally tell me they love me every time they talk to me openly expressed love to me then. Everyone needs to be loved. Tell the people you love how much they mean to you.

People matter. Things don't.
The night before my diagnosis we were hammering baseboard in our basement, trying to finish a playroom for our kids. I also had a short list of 2 or 3 last baby items I wanted to collect before our baby was born. When my cancer was diagnosed and I didn't know how long I would live, I realized quite suddenly how much those things didn't matter. I no longer cared about finishing our basement and I wasn't worried about getting a baby monitor or the right baby wrap. What mattered was our eternal marriage, and what I cared about was whether I would live to raise our children. People are eternal--they deserve our love and attention. Everything else is just details.

God will strengthen you.
What we went through in the weeks, months, and years following my cancer was extremely hard, but I learned that God suits the blessings to your current difficulties. We saw miracles and I felt what I can only describe as spiritual power as God gave us the wisdom, hope, and strength for the tasks at hand. His grace is always sufficient for us. He will care for us always, but especially when we need Him most. Afterwards we will know even more surely that He lives, He knows us, and He loves us.

It's better to talk.
In the aftermath of my cancer I desperately needed to talk to people and sort through what had just happened to me. But most people didn't know what to say or what questions to ask, so a surprising number of people just didn't talk to me at all. Some would act like nothing had happened. Others would try to talk to me but weren't really comfortable listening to me or asking questions. A golden few reached out to me repeatedly and asked how I was dealing with things. I cherish the memory of those who blundered forward and tried to listen and love. I learned that when people hurt they need to talk. Sometimes we feel like we don't know what to say or do. But showing love by asking and listening (however awkward we may feel) can go a long way in helping someone feel less alone and more loved.

People are so, so good.
We were blown away by how kind people were to us during that summer. We were enveloped in the love of family and friends who fed us, helped with laundry, helped with yard work, cleaned, helped with the kids, sent cards and packages, dropped off cookies, and literally carried us through. I want to be as quick, kind, and generous as so many were to us.

Perhaps these lessons can all be summed up with one word--love. Love others. Love life. Love God. Feel His love. Love is what really matters.

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