Two years ago on December 4th I tried to write my very first CaringBridge post. Sitting on the terribly uncomfortable grey bench/bed on the 8th floor at Children’s, I opened up a page and with fingers on the keyboard I stared. How was this my new reality?
When we initially walked the oncology hallway with Clara on a gurney, cancerous tumor leaking inside her, I thought that the other parents had peculiar expressions on their faces when they watched us enter. How do I describe it? Almost an envy mixed with pity.
A few months later I understood. They knew that our journey had only started. We were still living with one foot in Healthy Child Land. Clara still had all her hair. She had not yet been ravaged by radiation and chemo. She was still a normal little girl with baby fat, color in her cheeks, eyelashes.
I felt anything but enviable.
Recently a lovely singer, Jenn Alexander has written and recorded a song entitled “Clara’s Song.” The verses talk about Roads, Rivers, Storms. Places we are lead to that we must travel down - want to or not. Clara shared her struggle with Jenn, saying “I don’t want to go. I have to, but I don’t want to.”
Two years ago I stood in the oncology ward and surveyed the path. I didn’t like what I saw in front of us. Signs on doors “no entry without mask,” kids walking attached to IV poles, teens with weary looks and puffy steroid faces, parents so remarkably numb.
“This road, Lord?”
Writing a journal update on CaringBridge seemed impossible. I handed the computer to Brian. “You write it.”
It turns out that the road Clara walked was the road I walked. The road Brian walked. The road Stephen and Abbie walked. The road all of Clara’s grandparents, her extended family, her friends, her church, her school ...
In a way you have all walked this cancer road with Clara. Maybe a piece of it was laden with rocks, or steep, or maybe you struggled as you watched. Maybe you asked, as I did, “This road, Lord?”
As a people we are designed to be communities intertwined in wonderful ways. I was often struck during Clara’s illness at the depth and breadth of impact a 6 year old could have. I will always walk my children’s journey. Sometimes I get to hold their hands, sometimes I will put my hands together and pray and watch. But their journeys? They are attached to mine.
What sweet mercy that we don’t all have to physically have cancer to know the cancer road.
This Christmas I wonder if any of you are walking down paths of pain that aren’t ones of your choosing? Roads of intense pain and open wounds. You don’t want to go but you have to.
Not everyone gets a CaringBridge.
Would you invite others in to walk alongside you in your journey? We need each other. You may well find that your path has twice as many blessings as curses - ours did. Would you share?
And if you aren’t riding the rapids yourself right now, please know that the way you opened your eyes a little wider, listened a little longer, unfolded your arms to us was an enormous blessing, and perhaps one that you are called to provide again to someone in your midst. Sometimes it’s the attentive ears and compassionate smile that allows a friend to exhale. Know that their journey will be a part of your journey, like it or not. Sometimes the mess is in our lives for a reason. Let it be there, and let it be messy.
As we look back at the road through the valley of cancer, I have decided to stop writing Caring Bridge updates. Because Clara is well! She is healed! Her cheeks are rosy, hair thick and full, no orthodics, no side effects. For all of us it’s time to embrace health.
I will continue to write on my blog and occasionally post updates on Clara’s oncology visits as she will have those until she is 18. If you’d like to hear Jenn Alexander’s album, you can pre-order it here, or download it on itunes on December 10th. She’s a delight and all around fantastic. The amazing melody she has put to the thoughts Clara expressed ... it’s something to behold.
Is it possible to thank each of you enough? I don’t feel like it. You have walked this road with us gracefully, crying with us, picking up after us, praying and pleading through long nights for us. Our hearts will never fully express our gratitude towards you.
Clara has been mis-singing the lyrics of Silent Night lately. She sings, “holy infinite, tender and mild.” Interesting, no? God the infinite, is tender and mild. Two thoughts I hadn’t connected until her little voice sang it across the house.
The infinite God who knows the infinite value in rocky paths is tender and mild enough to walk each step with us - especially when we don’t want to go.