I had told TWS that I would call his folks, but was afraid. How do you tell a mother that her only son has a brain tumor? Even now, weeks later, I feel my pulse quicken and the pit in my stomach just thinking about it. However, I could not get a hold of them. I tried their home number, and could not reach them. I think I tried his dad's cell as well, each ring of the phone making my stomach more nauseated with sorrow and anxiety for them. I was frustrated by the fact that I could not reach them, and mournful, and honestly, a little relieved.
I hung up, and I thought of how I was going to react, what I was going to do. The one good thing about being someone who both majored in psychology AND fancies themselves scientifically minded is that you automatically take quiet moments to rehash, rehearse, and analyze crises and your reactions to them.
Sometimes this just means that you spent your whole day staring at your belly button with nothing to show for it. But this time it was powerfully helpful. I asked myself: "How am I going to handle this? What are my feelings? What are my choices?".
I also asked myself "How would my parents handle this?". I knew the answer: they would be strong, be faithful. I had seen their faith in God in time of crisis. When my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast to bone cancer, they were strong. My mom endured without complaint, with dignity, courage, and faith that the Lord was in control. For my father, the battle was harsher. Honestly, it is one thing to be the sick person, it is another to be the well person watching your mate, your life, your love laying in bed and in pain. It is helpless and awful to be the one who has to watch as your world crumbles around you. My mom is my dad's world, his entire world.
I remember coming in to the study just a couple of weeks after her diagnosis. We had just moved in to our house in Alaska, but they flew me back immediately, as they did not think she would last two weeks. My dad had been crying. His eyes were wide with torment and begging as he turned to me and said "What am I supposed to do? Tell God that I do not trust Him now? I have to trust God now. If I don't, then all of my teaching is a lie. All that time teaching cadets about God was wasted. Faith in good times is NOT faith.". Even in his anguish, he understood that the Lord is the Lord of all. (Praise the Lord that He had mercy on us and she is happy and healthy to this day!).
No, they would not fall apart. Mom probably would be the most stoic--steady and calm. Dad would be a force of nature, trying to make things HAPPEN, to try to MAKE the universe obey his will. They would handle this crisis with grace and power and determination. I had to live up to that. I could not be less than what they would have been, it would have been too shaming.
It was this moment that the Lord was bringing me to a culmination of my life. A couple of hours later I would realize this consciously, but right then, instinctively, the Lord had me choose well. I could separate the emotion from the duty. Or rather, I could choose the emotions of faithfulness and determination over the emotions of terror and sorrow.
I had a choice, but really I didn't. I had been trained by Him through my parents. Once you know there is a choice, that one is better, you are morally bound to take that choice. I am not a great person, but the Lord showed me right from wrong, and gave me parents who insisted I choose right from when I was a kid. I was raised in a household with incredible expectations and examples of behavior.
The thing is, though, that I am not a strong woman. Stubborn? Oh yeah :). But not strong, not noble, not self sacrificing. I am weak, selfish, petulant. But *HE* made me able to endure, gave me strength. There is nothing good in me, nothing at all, that the Lord did not put there. I deserve no credit at all, and I speak this from the position of someone being in that moment and had seen clearly what He has done in her life. It was not me at all. It was Him. I have spent many years of my life agonizing, literally, over what glass in the cabinet to drink water from. I do not have faith enough for daily life sometimes!! But He gave me faith and strength for this crisis. He trained me for this.
Later when talking to my mom, I would try to explain this. I told her "I was created for THIS moment. My whole life was planning for this. This is the culmination of my existence. This is what I was made for.".
All of this "training" started when I was young. There are many things in my childhood that had left deep and painful wounds that had never really quite healed (until now, that is). I was brutally teased as a child...even to the point where two teenaged boys burned the back of my leg with a lighter as a joke. I was spat upon, had things stolen from my hands. I was mocked and betrayed. I had no defense because I had no idea that you could build walls, put on a game face. I was, by nature, transparent through and through. A bully saying "I hate you" went just as deeply as my parents saying "I love you". I had no filter, no discernment. And when you hear "You're ugly, we don't like you, go away" every day...well even if you did not know the person who said it, their words were just as hurtful as if they had been your best friend. There were times when I would come home crying every day.
I had no defense to keep the barbs from piercing my heart, but I subconsciously did develop a way of distancing myself after the fact. The emotional wounds were still there, but I knew how to splint the wound enough to keep functioning. I learned how to take a punch and keep walking.
(I do have to say here that the Lord was merciful, even during this time. He always made sure that I had at least one TRUE friend who loved me. I was never utterly alone.)
The Lord also showed me how another part of my childhood was a training for this moment. Many people live their lives in a relatively comfortable and stable setting. They are born, live, die all in the same area. Their parents have regular jobs. They have a home, and they live there, and it is pretty safe.
The world is what happens on the playground, in the home, in the town, and war was something very far away.
For me, war was on my front step every single day. I mean, you already can see that I am an overthinker, and was extremely sensitive :). Imagine that coupled with the fact that the rhythm of your family's life was set to the drumbeat of war. Instead of life centering around homecoming queens, it was centered around heroes coming home. My dad's "business trips" meant that we might not seen him for months. I was used to armed guards patrolling behind our house and the whine of alert klaxons. Our bookshelves were filled with Sun Tzu and Clauswitz. Wars, past, present and future, surrounded me every day since birth.
Millions of other kids grew up on military bases. Probably most children never thought a thing about it. I did. Some people shrug off, but I tend to want to stare into the abyss that is staring at me. The same transparency and vulnerability I had at school, I had in this. This upbringing was normal to me, but it left me no protective bubble of life. There was no "home", just another place to live for a year or three. There was no same set of people I knew for years. There was no peace, only a temporary cease-fire. There was very little stability. Other people have roots in the land, I had feathers in the air. I was not tied down, but I was also buffeted by every wind current.
However, I was not upset like I was at school. It made me proud, made me feel like part of something great--freedom and justice for those who could not protect themselves. I felt that "small town 4th of July" pride. There are few jobs that call for more sacrifice than the military, for both the military member and the family. It made me strong. But it also made me understand that life was fragile and precarious. Again, there was no ideal of "birth, graduate, marry your hs sweetheart, have babies, retire, then die in bed when you are 90". Life was so much more complex than that. It was politics and casualties and mercy and rescue and honor.
Maybe this is why I had been so fascinated with crisis. When I was...oh probably younger than 8, I started collecting first aid and catastrophe pamphlets from the Red Cross tables at fairs. You know, those ones with stick figure drawings telling you how to duck and cover during an earthquake or how to treat a broken arm? I kept them in a big bag and that was my pleasure reading. (yes, I was a weird headed little kid! lol)
There was a constant current in my childhood of the threat of the Russians attacking, of war. Many Sundays we would be in chapel, and suddenly the aircrews' radios would go off. We would stop and watch as they would file out slowly and somberly and quietly from their reserved pew in the back of the chapel. Sometimes my dad would be with them too, if he was on alert. We would not know if it was real or an exercise, we just knew that something had happened. They drifted out of the room like ghosts, leaving us there to wonder, fear, and pray in earnest. Can any child see the men leave, to know what that meant, and not be affected? I never knew if they were leaving due to exercise or to fight, and as a child, your thoughts naturally go to fear. How many times did I watch my dad go off to war, find that it was an exercise, only to have him go off to war again another time?
Or I think of when we would visit my dad at the alert facility where the aircrews stayed so they could scramble quickly to the airplanes if there was a threat. On Sunday, after church, the families could come. We would bring food from the base bowling alley: truly the most awful hamburgers ever made (ugh I hated those things!), and the most wonderful fries. We would gather at a plain, cinderblock building by the runway. The adults would stay inside and chat, while the kids would play in the small yard enclosed with high fences topped with razor wire. Such a familial gathering in a setting that was a constant reminder of of war, fear, and the transience of life. I can remember the smell and taste of the hamburgers, how I would scrape the soggy bun from the patty with my thumbnail, and how I could usually not bear to eat it, but would just eat the fries. I remember the flat of the ground, the blue of the sky, and the wind. I remember thinking it was beautiful but also....weighty? Poignant? Expectant? Sobering.
In both cases, the men going straight from church to war, and being a child visiting her father in a concertina wire rimmed yard, there was such an unreasonable juxtaposition of life and loss, family and war, faith and fear. No separation between. No clear battle lines, and behind which, safety. Not loss and then life, not fear and then faith, but fear upon faith, loss upon life, family upon war. A Cold War that raged in the experiences, the sensations, the mind and heart of me as a young girl.
It is the same juxtaposition of our experiences the day of diagnosis. A tumor upon a sinus infection. My husband, the picture of health, save a few headaches, being med evac’d from Alaska a thousand miles away. Him strong enough to build a deck, but too fragile in health to come pack his own socks for the trip.
In fact, the doctors all marveled at his robustness. They would pop their heads in the ER. They came to see the man who should be seizing or in a coma, but was strong and healthy. Mostly these tumors are caught in the ER when the patient is brought in tragically ill, not through a half moon infringement upon the CT scan of a strong man’s sinuses. (the tumor was the size of a ping pong ball, but only the side of it was visible in the CT scan--another miracle of the Lord! If it had been somewhere else, they might not have caught it!). He was, as the med evac troops put it, "the healthiest sick person they had ever transported". He was healthy enough to walk off the transport by himself, but too sick for them to fly above a certain altitude, so they had to wind their way through the valleys and canyons of Alaska wilderness.
And then there is me. So swayed at one point by OCD and panic disorder that I had been housebound for months in my life years earlier, yet so full of strength through the Lord, that I could fly down to Seattle with barely a thought. Later on my father would tell TWS "She handled this better than she handles her day to day life!", and he was utterly correct. The crisis was extreme, and so was the preparation that the Lord put me through for it. I had not known why the Lord had me endure so much strife until that VERY MOMENT when crisis struck. I had already lived through a million crises in my imagination, in my dreams, in my life. When the time came, His molding of me had been so complete that my reaction was automatic. The Lord ensured that I could be capable, able, strong FAR beyond my ability to be so.
I could see then how He had created, fashioned, molded my life for this moment. It was like a scene from a movie where the amnesiac has a sudden rush of memories and understanding of who they are. THAT was me. I did not have amnesia, of course, but there was that same rush of memories and understanding.
The Lord showed me that He DOES work everything out for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28). Every hardship that I had endured, that we all endure, prepares us for some time later in our lives. He never lets anything be wanton or useless in our lives. Even things that the enemy is trying to use to hurt us, the Lord, in His kindness, allows even those things to be used for good.
Not only that, but the pain that haunted me for years, even until this year, was erased. Those wounds healed instantly when the Lord showed me how He had turned that pain into strength. I was weak, now I am strong. I was wounded, now I am healed. I was broken, but He made me whole.
Please think about that. Think about your past hurts and understand that the Lord will bring about good in your life from those things. You might not have a spouse with a brain tumor or anything like that, but hopefully you will get a chance to see how the Lord has taken every hurtful thing in your life to create good for you. You will see the culmination of your life. You will pull sweet fruit from a bitter tree!! Suddenly nothing will be meaningless. Nothing will be useless or unfruitful. Suddenly you are not a victim anymore. No, you are no longer a victim. You are victorious in Christ. You will understand and praise the Lord. :)