JOY and PAIN…
I’ve been thinking lately about the year in which I lived in Boston. I thought it was my toughest year ever. I was heartbroken, far from home, skinny, depleted and exhausted. Yet, it was that Spring that I learned that tulips can grow up through snow. All those brilliant colors emerging out of deep snow banks, and then reaching courageously toward the sky. It was a miraculous show, especially following the coldest winter I’d ever known…cold both in weather and in life.
The 10 years since then have continued to be a deep mixture of JOY and PAIN. I lived in North Dakota. (Yes, to answer your question, it was cold there.) I moved to Tennessee. I bought a house. I got my license. I loved. I moved jobs. I lived in heartbreak. I bought and sold cars. I rescued 2 dogs. I built a garden. I found a church. I fell in love with community. I traveled. It’s been quite a 10 years.
In those 10 years, and all that they have given to me, I’ve learned that JOY and PAIN are inextricably connected. In my experience, and from watching others, I believe that they always enter life together. They never separate. There is always a part of one that accompanies the other. It is a difficult truth. I think most of us would rather have the joy and leave the pain. The pain is suffocating and soul crushing at times. Too much for one human heart.
That is how this Spring has been for me. Fewer tulips. More pain. On my birthday in March, we found out my Dad has cancer, and they called in hospice for my cousin. I went home, to Jacksonville, a week later to celebrate Easter with my family. Just before coming home, my grandfather went into the hospital. 96. His body was having a tough time keeping up with his mind. While I was home, I was humbled by being able to stay overnight with Granddaddy, and go to Dad’s first chemo treatment with him. When I boarded the plane back to Nashville, I was fairly positive that I wasn’t going to see Granddaddy alive again. I was right.
Back home for the funeral. My brother gave the eulogy. Most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. A celebration of the life of a man who we all loved deeply, and who LIVED LIFE well. Dad was too sick from chemo to go to the funeral. My brother-in-law read his part. Beautiful to see him step into my Dad’s shoes so graciously. Heartbroken that my Daddy didn’t get to be there to say goodbye to his friend. They had been great friends. Two great men. Both of whom I love in the deepest parts of my heart.
Three weeks after Granddaddy’s funeral, our Nashville cousin passed from cancer. Another great man who lived life fully and LOVED so well. Another full church. Another eulogy. Dad couldn’t come to this one either. I was grateful for the weekend with my Momma. I drank in that time with her. We talked and grieved…and then planted some plants. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
PAIN. Lots of pain. And, yet, Spring and Summer rolled on. And babies were born. JOY keeps entering the world.
As I sit here today, I am celebrating that today is the first day of Dad’s last chemo treatment. JOY. Any of you who have watched a loved one walk through chemo know that it is beyond description. Chemo almost kills a person to save them. If I could have, I would have switched places with my Dad. I think we all would have. But, I celebrate the end of this hateful disease for my Daddy. JOY. JOY. JOY.
However, as I began to celebrate yesterday, I ended up in a waiting room at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Surrounded by a large group of precious souls, we listened intently as one of my dearest friends described the mass the doctors found in their 10 month old precious baby girl. Tears. Prayers. Phone calls. Meal trains. We all moved into GO mode. And, then we all went home and cried. 10 months. How can that be? Cancer is HATEFUL. PAIN.
So, this morning, I had to write. To get it out of me and onto the screen. As I write, I am wearing my Granddaddy’s camo t-shirt. I don’t care that it’s not the most appropriate attire for work. We do what we can to get through. And, today, I needed to feel the strength of the men I love.
In Jacksonville, my Dad is sitting in that big recliner with chemo running into his port. Here in Nashville, that precious baby girl is wrapped up in her pink blanket with her Minnie Mouse keeping her company. Bone marrow test awaits her later today. PAIN.
I don’t have a pretty end to this entry. I am grateful for the little joys that are present in my every day. I never want to miss them. But, the pain lately has been louder. And, that just is what it is.
But, today, in the middle of all the pain, I still wake up with a prayer on my lips. I believe that there is more. That God is good. That love, mercy, and justice will prevail in the end. And, that God is close to the broken-hearted. That He sits with each of us as we walk through PAIN. And, that he is the author of JOY. It is the toughest choice for me to make. And, I don’t make it every day. Some days I check out…more than I care to admit over the last 4 months. But, not today. Today, I’m clinging to TRUTH. Between that and my camo t-shirt, I will get through today…and fall asleep with the same prayer on my lips.
If you would, please pray for my Daddy and that precious baby girl. As our journey with this disease ends, theirs is beginning. I pray hers is short, comes with full remission, and is never heard from again in her life.
May God’s presence and LOVE be made clearly known to all who seek Him today.