April 19, 2010 marked a big milestone: Meaghan turned six! On April 18th, we had a very small open house to celebrate her birthday. At Meaghan's very specific request, there was to be no singing, no blowing out of candles, no photography. She dreads focused attention.
On April 20, 2010 my Father-in-Law, John, passed away after an arduous battle with dementia. He was seventy-five. I am thankful that his body has been relieved of it's suffering. I am burdened that there are no adequate words of comfort for a newly widowed woman.
Across the state, a young boy, just seven, is given grim news. The cancer is back. Brendan wants to fight on! He has more he wants to do! He's praying, we are all praying, for his "Miracle of Miracles." Praise God, the cancer seems to be responding to the more aggressive therapy.
In a rare moment of early morning quiet, I sip my coffee and ruminate on these three different stories. Each calls into question relationships with the chronically ill, how their illnesses shape the art of living with the healthy and abled bodied, how they view themselves within the larger context of a social conscience. And by juxtaposition, how we measure against their reflection.
The larger question in play is God. And, yes, God at times is simply: "God?" Where do You fit into all of this? What are You up to? Some would ask, "Where is God at all?" in these three people's lives. I am most perplexed by Brendan and Meaghan. They are faith-filled young children. Why should a seven year old boy be facing his own mortality? There are a great many similarities between Meg and Brendan's diagnoses and initial treatments. But as I learn about more and more about other Medullo/PNET children, it all seems so arbitrary at times. Why is one child spared and another not? Does God love one child more than another? Is one more deserving of a future than another? These questions are fundamental to my faith.
As we celebrate wonderful milestones and new accomplishments, it is always with baited breath. Tom Nunn, father to Max, aptly describes cancer as an invisible wrecking ball:
"Childhood cancer is an invisible wrecking ball that you don’t see coming.
And after you receive Great News you are still waiting for the invisible
wrecking ball to swing back down again. It has a lot of momentum and you are
constantly stepping side-to-side and ducking and closing your eyes in
anticipation of the next time the wrecking ball passes and wondering how close
it will be."
While doing a craft the other day Meaghan couldn't remember if she was seven or nine! The farther we get from radiation the faster her short term memory deteriorates. Score one for the wrecking ball. Yet, several days later, her new therapeutic tricycle arrives and she's independently riding a bike!! Score one for God and Meg!!
I refuse, we refuse, to stop moving forward. We are currently training our Golden Retriever Ribby to be Meaghan's Service Mobility Dog. This will be a lengthy and costly process. We are looking at investing in a small backyard pool for exercise and therapy. We have begun to work with a group for therapeutic horseback riding. We are trying to find a music therapist and art therapist. And, of course, Meg still wants a puppy! All of these things are outside private and secondary insurance.
As we fearlessly, faithfully move forward with quality of life enhancing opportunites for Meg, my faith is challenged again. My human head and heart will never understand why God allows this to happen to children. Yet, there is peace. Call me stupid or blind, or call me faithful... I know my God, simply IS!
Yes, the Lord did not cure my Father-in-Law's dementia, but he did relieve his suffering in a humane and loving way. I know my Mother-in-Law's and my husband's family's grieving it too fresh, but God is blessing us. She will have the ability to participate more in her grandchildren's lives.
Brendan and his family are facing unspeakable daily trials, but through it all Brendan and his family bless so many. Brendan receives a daily outpouring of God's love and support through all of us that post on his pages, cheer him on, cry and rejoice with him. I am truly priveledged to come to know this young man.
And so, I make peace. The house was empty and quiet. Laying in bed with Meg, I feel her mind and body begin to relax. She is struggling with depression. We hadn't had the best of days together. With her downy soft head nestled under my chin, I let go the day's grievances. God blessed me right then and there. He gave me peace and he was with us, holding us. Feeling at peace, feeling loved, we fell asleep together.
Is it all arbitrary? The disease, pain, suffering, dying? I don't know. Perhaps growing in Christ is accepting the uncertainty with childlike trust. I think my biggest lesson in loving and trusting God is finding peace in the uncertainty, finding love in the pain and hurt.
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters." Psalm 18:16 (NIV)