I was talking with my good friend Brian Herr about my sister’s latest blog post. It was about the simple need for companionship. It referenced my son Trey. He had a girlfriend in pre-school. I mean, she was HIS girlfriend. Other girls wanted his attention but nope, he always held her hand. He always walked with her. They were smitten.
Trey died in November of 2014. Brian asked me, as many do, how Joe and Bella were doing with the loss all of these years later. I gave him the same answer I always do. If something was really wrong or they were really struggling, we’d know. They are physically and emotionally healthy. They have 4.0+ GPA’s. They have friends and are involved in many different extra-curricular activities. As mile-stone moments in their lives pass (different grades/schools, birthdays, anniversaries of Trey’s birthday/death/etc.) they seem to handle it fine. Granted, we have no idea what may spring up in due time but for now…they seem to be fine.
The same is true for Rachel and me. We have gotten to know a few (very few) folks who have lost a child to cancer. While our hearts break for them we do take note that we seem to be doing quite well. Why is that?
First and foremost I give the credit (oh crap, I’m a Pastor) the glory to God. When Trey was finally diagnosed I was blessed with a clear vision of what to do. I was prepared from the beginning (and quite honestly was inclined to believe) that he might not make it. I was overwhelmed by John 3;16 that if “God so loved the world that He gave His ONLY begotten Son” that if He required one of my two, who was I to say no? He then gave me the wisdom to put a plan into action.
First, we were open, honest, and vulnerable. We were not going to fight this in a vacuum. Second, I let Rachel be primarily responsible for Trey’s care. She was going to be anyhow. I would make sure that Rachel would have her needs met. I had a select group of women secretly (as Rachel would not want them to be put out) pray for her, bless her with gifts, and encourage her with notes. I would also be responsible to make sure that Joe and Bella 1. Had their essential needs met. 2. That they were appropriately made aware of what was going on with Trey. and 3. Had their own separate identities and activities so that they would not get swallowed up in Trey’s battle. To make sure that I was ok, I had men close to me check in with me and let me vent to them.
We knew then that we had to make memories. We took as many trips as we could. Yes, I’ve set up a lifetime of expensive vacations as we could hardly stop going away when Trey died. That would not let Joe and Bella know that they are just as important as Trey. To that end, we all have more memories of Trey having a great time on trips than in a hospital room (ok, Joe and Bella remember the trips, Rachel and I have countless hospital memories).
All that to say this, God brought us through the darkness and revealed His brightest light. Thousands of people helped us, blessed us, cried with us (oh so important). We faced most parents greatest fear and were better people (and dare I say parents) as a result. Further, we know Christ in a deeper and more intimate way.
THAT, is what now leaves us…me, frustrated. I have battled the cancer of a child face to face. I swung with all I had. I got hit and hit back. Insert any other cliche’ and I embodied it. Now, to those who are in that same battle? I am the voice of death. If someone has a child with cancer I am a reminder that you can lose your child. I have to walk so carefully and am rendered to have so little input or impact. I would love to help more people in their darkest times..yet, I can’t THAT is frustrating.
So what do I do? I do what I can. I encourage. I praise. I pray. I apply what I’ve learned to those in not so similar situations that allow me to freely share and comfort. I do what I can.
My prayer is that you do what you can. What have you been through? What have you faced? Someone else is going through something similar. Don’t tell them that you know how they feel. Cry with them and show them. Be available. Don’t just show up at the fundraiser and then the funeral. Show up 6 months later…6 years later. Be ever present (not at their house, no one wants that) in their lives.
God has not forgotten about us. He is ever present. His Holy Spirit whispers to me daily and encourages me. I listen to Him (at times). I try to be that to others. I encourage you, do what you can.
PS-On Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games tonight (Sept. 19) there is a young man who’s daughter battled cancer. His name is Bobby Marcotte and he runs a crazy good restaurant in New Hampshire. He and I are twitter friends. Tune in and watch!