This is a time of slow and careful reflection, as you can well imagine. Despite the busyness of work and family, I still have a lot of time to think. I think about the past year and a half and what we’ve been through. I think about the shock of Walter’s diagnosis and as this news sank in, the journey toward building faith, trust and acceptance that God is in control no matter what happens. Even beyond this, the realization that God chooses things to work perfectly and I have no doubt he will continue to do this in my life.
I think about the little things God has taught me through this experience, the little lessons in character building.
I always thought that when God was handing out gifts, he had given me an extra share of patience. Nevertheless, he made sure to give me an extra helping with Walter’s illness. There was so much waiting: waiting in doctor’s offices, waiting for lab and diagnostic results, waiting during chemo treatments, waiting to speak to the doctors during the eight hospitalizations Walter experienced, waiting for the morning to come to report a concern, waiting at home to care for him. Although these periods had the potential for causing extreme anxiety, God also gave me a means of calming my heart and hands and listening to him….my knitting. I made Walter arm warmers, hats and mittens to keep him warm. At other times I made socks and hats for others. It was very comforting and productive and each finished object rewarded me for my patience.
When one hears the diagnosis of cancer, there is a natural reaction to ask God, “Why? Why us? Why now?” When you can get through the shock and disbelief and accept it, one moves through to, “Ok, God. It is there, so will you help us get through this?” There is just no other alternative but to trust that He knows all, He will be in control, and He has a plan.
Compassion and kindness
This is very different from pity and sympathy. Compassion is having a deep heartfelt understanding of another’s plight and imagining what it is like for the other in pain and discomfort. Anyone can “ pity” and have sympathy for another, but compassion goes a step further and does something to make another feel better. I have had a measure of compassion for others, being a nurse as my profession. It’s not always easy to feel the same for a family member, or a person you live with day in and day out. I had to dig deep to show that compassion and caring when Walter was stubborn and I felt he wasn’t doing his part to get better and follow doctor’s recommendations. Despite my fatigue from my 8-9 hr job, I was able to come home to make him comfortable and respond to his needs at a very intimate level. I think he recognized that this was truly from a “Love” for him, no matter how difficult he was. He would frequently say, “How will I ever make it up to you?” His acknowledgement was all I needed.
Courage and inner strength
I suppose it could have been easier to fall apart and let others take over. However, this was never acceptable for me. I have always felt better to have a small measure of control in my life. Looking ahead at the realization of the impact that cancer can do to a person and their future was frequently frightening. There were several times I was so overwhelmed I struggled with depression myself. Yet, there was a realization that a lot of people were counting on me; my workmates and the families and children I serve, my family who looked to me as an anchor in keeping the family home going, and my dear husband who learned to be totally dependent on me, when he could not advocate for himself among the medical professionals caring for him. It took tremendous courage and strength to keep my emotions under control and not break down in a helpless heap of tears. When things seemed overwhelming, I turned it over to God and let him take care of us, which he did in everyway. He lead us to compassionate medical staff at the City of Hope, and he sent people to help us apply for benefits to keep our finances and bills taken care of. He brought generous friends and family who gave us respite and gifts of encouragement. This all helped me have strength and courage to keep functioning, making decisions to get through each day.
Even now, as Walter has passed and I miss him terribly, I keep that courage and strength going as I now have to find a new future without him and a new life. I feel I have become a better person from this experience and hope in some small way I can pass on some of this to those I come in contact with.
“I believe…..Help Thou my unbelief
I walk into the unknown trusting like a child….”
From a Bill Gaither Song