October 21, 2009
Nate is not a nature guy and doesn’t normally notice what’s going on outside his window. Today was an exception. Here in Michigan we had a summery day in late October with temps in the mid-70s and lots of sunshine. The day begged us to “come outside and play,” so the two of us decided to take a short ride. Although I’d planned to drive to our tiny town a mile away, as we were weaving through the subdivision Nate began commenting on the beauty of the colored leaves.
“Wow, look at that yellow one. And the red over there. Are the colors darker than usual this year?”
Instead of driving to town, we drove to a beach lookout with a wooden deck. Since no one was there, I drove right up to the planks so Nate had only four small steps from his car door to the railing. There was a bench on the deck drenched in sunlight, and a warm breeze was blowing off Lake Michigan.
“Could you tolerate that bench for a while?” I asked, hoping he could. And he nodded.
We sat quietly, taking in the beauty of the lake, the sand, waving dune grasses and endless fall color. Some people don’t like autumn, because colored leaves represent a process of dying, and they know bare trees will soon follow.
Our family’s reality is similar in that Nate is in the process of dying. Strangely, though, this season, much like autumn, has a spectacular beauty to it, and none of us wants to minimize that just because we know what season comes after this one.
The Bible says, ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be silent … a time to lose … a time to weep … a time to mourn … and a time to die.’ (parts of Ecclesiastes 3)
Although we are moving along the time line that includes every one of those negatives, God is simultaneously providing counterpart positives. This morning, I looked at Nate sitting on the bench. He is on the losing side in every physical category, losing muscle, balance skills, the ability to read and write, clear thinking. Yet there we sat, enveloped in beauty, enjoying the season around us, and thus enjoying ourselves.
This sounds terrible, but there is much about our season of dying that we’re enjoying. Our family is together, including grandbabies, providing tremendous support, counsel and love to each other … and the pleasure of baby talk. Prayer is the staple of nearly every hour. Scripture rescues difficult moments by delivering sustenance and vigor. Friends are bringing a steady stream of healthy meals to our door. My calendar is empty, absent of pressure to accomplish. Our mailbox is full of loving greetings. We have time to ponder, to converse and to wait.
Guest contributor Margaret Nyman chronicles the 42 days after her husband Nate, a patient at Rush University Medical Center, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Read more posts by visiting the Coping With Cancer section or subscribing to the RSS feed. Her personal blog is at www.GettingThroughThis.com.