October 11, 2009
As Nate and I came down the stairs this morning in tandem as we always do (me first to cushion any falls), a fire was already burning in the fireplace. We’d had our first freeze last night, and the upstairs held a chill, so the fire was especially warming. A bin full of split wood was at the ready. The coffee was brewed and waiting for us.
When I went into the bathroom, yesterday’s wet, used towels had been replaced with clean ones. Folded laundry was piled high in a living room chair. Last night’s dishes, left to dry in the sink drainer (no dishwasher), had been put away. Our circle of chairs in the living room, one for each family member, was ready for today’s meals. Pastries from the bakery sat on the kitchen counter.
Today’s newspapers, Nate’s great pleasure, were waiting next to his La-Z-Boy chair, and the dog had already been walked. Our car had been filled with gas and was ready for our next trip into Chicago.
All of this is the work of our grown children. These days, even before we mention what is needed, they’ve spotted it and provided. Their behavior reminds me of the Scripture verse that says even before we ask, God knows what we need.
In recent days our kids have changed the oil in the car, run endless errands including all the grocery shopping for a crowd, and organized prayer times together. They’ve made sure all the plants that might freeze were brought into the house, washing the pots first. They’ve put together (and cleaned up) countless meals. They are solicitous of our welfare to the smallest detail and are trouble-shooting in every category. They are showering us with blessing.
As Nate has become needy and I right along with him, we’ve flip-flopped roles with our kids. They are now the givers, and we are the receivers. Both of us are bowled over by their consistent efforts to help without taking any credit. I believe they are allowing themselves to be used as part of God’s gracious provision for us and also for each other during these days of raw emotion and painful reality. Each one has set aside a busy life as if that wasn’t stress enough, to come and hang out with us. They’ve made themselves available to work, talk, sit in silence or just be under the same roof. And all of this is taking place while they are hurting, too.
During the last 19 days, each of us has been wrenched from a familiar routine and flung into the foreign land of terminal cancer. We entered this new world kicking and screaming but have been surprised by the unnumbered blessings that have come along with us.
When in recent years have all of us been together without an agenda? There has always been a program to follow: Christmas dinners and traditions, birthday celebrations and gifts, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, the 4th of July picnic, you name it. Every family gathering follows a prescribed script from beginning to end. This time, there is no script. It’s a strange time, seemingly unreal. It’s almost as if this drama is happening to some other family. In moments of the day we forget, ever so briefly, that our father/husband has been given a death sentence. And then it comes rushing back, bringing nausea, weakness and sadness. Yet none of us can deny that each day has its plus signs.
Today, for example, our niece Julia, her husband Drew, and their three children arrived on our door step with the intention of praying over Nate and for all of us. We didn’t serve coffee or eat cookies. We simply sat in a circle holding hands, and prayed (and cried). God was in the circle, too. Had Nate not been seriously ill, this extraordinary get-together would not have occurred. We were under a shower of blessing.
Guest contributor Margaret Nyman takes us step by step through the 42 days after her husband Nate, a patient at Rush University Medical Center, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Read more of her posts by visiting the Coping With Cancer section or subscribing to the RSS feed. Nyman’s personal blog is at www.GettingThroughThis.com.