Friday, August 27, 2010

Out of the mouth of a pediatric oncologist...

She was Asian-American, young, self assured, smart. She was Josh’s first pediatric oncologist. And at a moment of great suffering she turned to me and said, “You need to let go.”

Sometimes people speak words we need to hear, but we balk at them, everything in us rising up against it. For me, this was that moment. Enraged I vowed to never “let go”. How could I abandon my son? I thought. But her words seemed trapped in my mind. And every so often as each year came and went, I found myself back in that instant reliving her words, her tone of voice, the look of sincerity on her face. As time marched on, I discovered the implication of her words were not what I had thought. Being so damned black and white, I had missed the depth and spiritual significance of what she said. And as time has evolved and I have hopefully grown, I recognize what she intended for me to hear.

Joshua or any of my children for that matter are not mine. I don’t own them or their lives. I don’t have control over what might or might not happen to them. They were created by God and given to my husband and me as gifts, for a time. So to “let go” is to release a burden of trying to control what I cannot. This truth, straight from God, was spoken to me in an instant of fear by a doctor who was treating my son. My fear, my black and whiteness blocked it from penetrating my soul until years later. Now I appreciate her words, her effort, and her wisdom.

Out of the mouth of Frank at Children’s Healing Art Project…

He’s an artist, creative, funny, with wavy sandy-red hair. With the spirit of a child, he loves children and clearly is gifted in working with kids who have life threatening illnesses and even dying children. He works with insight and intuition both powerful and astounding. After seeing his impact on my son’s emotional wellbeing I went to thank him. As we spoke together I mentioned my struggle with “survivor’s guilt”. I wondered aloud, “Why do other families lose their children to cancer while our son is cancer free?”

“I am no more deserving than Melissa or Kathy or Lauren” I cried.

Pausing and looking straight into my eyes he quietly said, “It’s not about you”.

Other times people will say something we know we are meant to hear. The words stop us cold; freezing the moment as they are released into the air. Penetrating my soul I knew, I just knew his words were truth. Oh, how easily I turn everything into something about me. How centered I am on my feelings, my emotions, my thoughts when all the while, it’s really not about me. This life, my life is not about me. It’s about those around me. It’s about my Creator and His work, His creation, His people placed in my life. It’s about His Planet. It’s about His love, His sacrifice, His continued work. It’s about His miraculous acts each day. It’s about centering my life on Him.

May I endeavor to remember and live out these truths: “Let go” and “It’s not about me”.

Out of the mouth of God…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Out of the clear blue...

Crater Lake is the bluest blue I’ve ever seen. Deep and clear it reflects the cobalt sky encircled and contrasted by towering dark cliffs. It moved me.

Josh had never been camping before. Well, unless you count the night in the snow cave last winter where we froze all night and he promptly broke his arm early the next morning! Anyway, he’d been telling me he wanted to go camping. He’d heard all the stories of our camping adventures with the girls from their infancy right up until the late 90’s. When my husband went into fulltime ministry, for some unclear reason we just stopped. Maybe it was the transition of moving our family into my husband’s calling. After all; most summers found him in East Africa. Josh came along in 2000 and the girls began to travel with their dad to the African continent. Then came the cancer and two years of frequent hospital stays, survival, recovery, loss, post traumatic stress, grief, chaos and uncertainty…emotional upheaval all mixed in with faith.

So we squeezed Crater Lake in between two commitments in southern and eastern Oregon, threw a tent, some sleeping bags, pads and old cooking gear into the back of our car! Setting the tone for our one night two day adventure was the pleasant surprise of discovering it was a FREE weekend in the National Park. The three of us, hiked in wildflowers and along the rim of the stunning lake, swam and fished in the icy blue liquid, built a fire, cooked hot dogs and s’mores and marveled at the star studded sky. Josh talked and talked, full of questions and comments now that he was away from video games, TV and computers. And we could listen and try to answer him now that we were away from work, commitments and meetings. The time was precious.

It was strange without our girls, though, each of them busy with their summer jobs and activities and yet it seemed right and natural, just the three of us, mom, dad and son. It’s almost as if we have two families, two sets of memories, one with the girls and one with Josh. Oddly enough, our strongest memories of all seven of us together center around cancer: Make-A-Wish, the House in the Trees, and radiation in California, Disneyland, and Lego Land.

But one moment stands out stark and weighty on our Crater Lake camping trip. Touring the newly remodeled lodge, we marveled at its loveliness. Josh was totally engrossed in answering three pages of questions in order to earn his Junior Ranger badge, so he sat in a comfy chair in the lobby and I settled in next to him in the warm sunshine. As I began to watch the people around me in the busy lodge I suddenly saw her…it was Lesly…Lesly Foster…as I remember her, brown skin, dark curly brown hair, beautiful brown eyes, same build, and similar sweet round face. Tears slid down my face as I watched her...knowing it wasn’t her. Feelings of sorrow and grief and loss overwhelmed me. The ache of missing her was strong and then I thought of her parents and their ache, unfathomable. Everything came rushing at me at once of our journey with childhood cancer, of all the families I knew and what I knew of their journeys too. I couldn’t stop the tears and I hoped the little girl’s mother didn’t see me staring and crying.

I sat there for what seemed like a long time, when my husband showed up. He looked at me and I pointed the little girl out and quietly said, “Lesly”. He looked over, saw her and began to cry too. Josh heard me, looked up, saw her and said, “Awww” with deep feeling and then silence. Slowly and quietly we left the lodge each immersed in our own thoughts.

Out of the clear blue…

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Of Camp and Bullies and Bullwinkles...

My last blog post was simply two letters written by my 10 year old son while he was at his first overnight camp this summer. I worked hard to convince him to attend this camp for children dealing with cancer. After all he has struggled with anxiety especially while mom and dad are away and that’s why we got him his Angel Dog, Saucie. (Yet another blog post) But alas, pets weren’t allowed at camp, so persuading him to go took a little effort on my part.

And as you know from his letters everything started off well, but three days in he began to be bullied by two boys his age. None of this was revealed to me until we walked into our house after a long drive home and he began unpacking.

“Here mom" he said as he handed me a piece of paper. "Read this”. Oh how sad I was to see his words.

Many questions and discussions ensued with phone calls to the camp staff and an encouraging call to Josh from a male friend, himself a father filling in the gap for Josh’s dad who was out of the country. Though bullying is never right, many lessons were learned and discoveries made of insights into a little boy’s heart.

Then emails flew back and forth between two mothers, one with a son who was bullied and one with a son who went along with the bullying so that he himself wouldn’t be bullied. Self preservation.

And from those emails sprang an apology letter asking forgiveness and finally a sundrenched afternoon spent playing putt putt golf, bumper boats, high ropes courses and arcade games at a Family Fun Center called Bullwinkles.

Two boys becoming fast friends through the gift of forgiveness. One boy contrite of heart. One boy whose heart was healed. One boy who will now stand up for the weak. One boy who will speak up and tell an adult instead of hiding his pain.

Of Camp and Bullies and Bullwinkles and… Forgiveness…