I know that I can be too honest here. I know that I offend, I upset - people want to hear inspirational, happy - sunshiny thoughts, and lately, I just can't muster it. We have been doing this dance with cancer for almost a year, longer than any of us thought we would. Dad has defied all odds in his survival, and we are all grateful for that. However, there is an end point to all this, and that thought is never far from of our thoughts. We dwell in a reality of 'how much longer, how much longer', and I spend sleepless nights worrying and morbidly wondering what it will be like, at the end. My father's death. Yes, we can argue that it's true of all of us. We don't know if we'll die tomorrow, but very few of us know with concrete certainty that the clock is ticking.
Last night, I attended Ash Wednesday service. My first church service in a very long time. God and I, we've had a strained relationship the last year. And while I talk to him on a daily basis, I just could not muster it in me to visit His house. I'm sure he's understood. But it was Addie, of all people, that insisted we go. She had watched them burn the palms in preparation for the service, and she was determined to go and 'pray for the sick people and the dead people.' I tried to tell her it was a serious, somber service, and that she might get bored, but she was going. My favorite exchange of the night went something like this:
"Addie, this is a very somber service, where we're supposed to look into ourselves and think about how we can be better Christians. And if you listen well, and are very quiet, you might feel the presence of God."
"Presents!? I love presents!"
"Let me try this again...."
Out of the mouths of babes....
So we went, the three girls: Mom, me and Addie. And Addie was good, and quiet, and listened. And so did I. I think we can all admit that from time to time, we all do a little 'spacing out' in church. Your mind wanders a bit before you snap back to reality. But I really listened. I wanted to hear what God had to say to me. As I listened to the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the words about the meaning of Lent, the giving up of worldly things, of delving into your spiritual world. Forty days of penitence. Forty days Jesus wandered the desert and was tempted by the devil. Forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai. Forty days of rain that flooded the Earth. My family has been living a very long season of Lent. We have felt alone, we have heard the storms raging, we have felt abandoned by God. We have suffered greatly, all of us, but so do many. We are not alone in our suffering, the world is a pretty dismal place. I listened closely last night, and I know that we need to cling to our faith, and the knowledge that Christ died so we could live. But really, at this point, Heaven is such an abstract concept to me, I can't wrap my brain around it. It's easy to repeat the prayers with rote memorization, it's easy to believe when all is calm and good. When your faith is tested, it's a lot harder. It's real work.
I am a big believer in signs. Not big signs, but little ones. I believe that if you pay enough attention, you will find signs from God all over the place. I went up for communion last night, and the layperson approaching me with the wine was an older woman, very nice, but suffering with some palsy of her hands. As soon as the cup touched my lips, down it went, all over my face, down the front of my shirt. She was mortified, I was amused. I said to Mom 'well, now I'm truly bathed in the blood of Christ' - and I have to say is: that God, he is the prankster. I sent out a small message to Him: "I get it. I know. Keep the faith."
I have seen Dad start to fail in small ways: he's weaker, less steady on his feet, gets tired easily. He's had pain in his sides, and a bone scan revealed a small amount of cancer activity in the 5th ribs. Dr. Kelly moved up his CT scan, and that revealed some new, 'small' activity. A few new tumors in the lungs, and the tumor on the adrenal gland had not shrunk as much as they would have liked. He is not eligible for the latest drug trial, as he never smoked, and we're trying to get his on Tarceva, but the co-pay is $2000 a month, so we're looking into programs that can help with the costs. Because, you know, they like to eat. Next week, we see Dr. Massey and find out what's going on in his brain. I'm concerned, mainly because I can see that he's having more trouble following conversations, and sometimes, he'll say things that make absolutely no sense. I know he's worried, too. My biggest fear is that he'll be scared and in pain, and that is what I pray for him every day: for peace, acceptance, and no pain.
"Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you're tired and broken Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do to do for you to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through"