Today the sun was shining, and it was a glorious morning. By afternoon, the clouds were rolling in, and the air began to feel heavy and damp. The weather reflected my mood: I was excited because my a close member of my family was being released from the cancer center at the hospital. The occasion was bittersweet because she was too weak to go back home. This brave lady can only walk a few steps at a time because she has been in bed for a month. Her weight is way down, and even the smallest size clothing just hangs on her. I shopped carefully for her today, trying to make sure everything would fit, and yet be stylish enough for her.
I am so happy that our loved one survived the surgery, as she had a decent chance of not making it at all. The hard part comes in knowing that any improvements that are to come will soon be foreshadowed by the inevitable suffering that her advanced stage cancer will bring. I prayed a lot today, for her, and for her elderly husband, who is managing very well, but is not as physically strong and able as before. My heart was breaking for the two of them, as they have not been separated previous to the recent series of hospitalizations for more than a few days at a time. Yet there they were, saying goodbye for the day. It was positively wrenching to see our beloved’s face as she said goodbye to her husband of 56 years, facing a night alone in a strange place.
Their goodbye, as we knew it, was only temporary, but she seemed so small, so helpless, and so alone. I think she was scared, but too tired out from the few things she was able to do today to really reflect on it. I didn’t want to say goodbye, and cried all the way home in the car while saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
I am familiar with skilled nursing facilities, but it felt so…..institutional in the room, standing on the hard floor, viewing the spartan furnishings. We inventoried all of our family member’s belongings, labelled all of her clothes with permanent marker. We will do all of her laundry ourselves. We will try hard to make her room more like home, by bringing in photos and plants, a radio. In the end, she will be stronger, but it will be difficult. Our beloved will have to battle her loss of air, her nearly nonexistent physical strength, and the big C. Yikes.
The situation reminded me of Lent, as we say goodbye to our Alleluias and look within ourselves to view the not-so-pretty reality of where we are spiritually, and where we want to be within a few weeks when Easter arrives. Like my family member, we feel weakened and sometimes alone because of our sin or our experiences. Just as a medical patient needs doctors and nurses, we all need each other – and God, to get through our pain, our times of looking inward, when we don’t always like what we see. We feel scared, and are afraid to trust, afraid to let go and let God do what He needs to do with us. We battle our inner selves and have to muster up the strength and the courage, but of course we can’t ever do our important work alone. Our perserverance comes from God alone.
Later we look back on our experiences and our lives and wonder, how did we ever got through it all? During the darkest hours it seems as if God has abandoned us, and we ask God to help us make sense of why unpleasant events happened to us, and for what purpose? Yet who are we to ask God that question? If God told us the reasons for our suffering, how could we possibly comprehend them, because He is God?
The reality is that God never leaves us. He holds us tight through the hurricane that is life and wants us so desperately to cling to Him. He waits patiently for us to see that He was always there. When we finally realize that, the realization feels like a celebration! We finally understand that come what may, God never stops. He gently and lovingly whispers to us in our moments of profound suffering these few but powerful words:
“I will never leave you.”
And he won’t. Take comfort in that! I know I will.