But the quirky reply didn't come.
We may not talk every day or every week... since I moved 5 years ago we don't even talk every month. But I know my friend. I've known her since our boys were in kindergarten and AWANAS together. These same boys who collected high school graduation certificates in June. We've celebrated and cried through many of life's ups and downs together. Ours is the kind of friendship which simply stands, no matter time or distance. I turned the music off, bracing for what I had secretly suspected since seeing her recently.
Just 2 weekends ago we had the wonderful opportunity to spend time together, her family and part of mine. We made the three hour drive west in order to watch them taking part in living history. I almost cancelled the trip due to my own health issues. However, I have been eternally grateful I let the Lord lead and help me push through the drive. Yet, what has resonated more than their amazing costumes and the unique experience of stepping back in time was when she told me of her weakening state, this woman with so much life. I've never known anyone who goes as far and gives as much as she.
Everyone was gone, juggling pre-open details among kids catching up. It was just us, filling in the gaps of life since we last had a recap. She was busy fastening the many layers of her costume, which she did somewhat deftly after a summer full of weekends blasting 150 years into the past. But this weekend, she fumbled with the pin at her waist-line as she detailed the events of recent weeks which were prompting an expected surgery the next morning. I knew the surgery well, having gone through the same procedure myself some years ago. However, I sensed something about hers as being slightly different. The doctor's cautions, the urgency, the size of masses... still, I could see the heightened worry in her pleading eyes and I knew my roll: the calmer.
I stepped forward to help with the pin, attempting encouragement, suggesting these things are common and she would be fine. I offered tidbits of seasoned advice and quips to try and catch a smile and loosen the tone. Yet, in all my personal experiences, I felt as concerned as she looked. But we both hoped and we both prayed.
Surgery that Monday went well, recovery, on the other hand, has been rough. The recap, once she was well enough to communicate, almost clinched my suspicions, but all we could do was wait. My part was to offer hope, encouragement, prayer.
Then the phone ring.
The music stop.
I tried to be calm and make light. Something in my Spirit was bracing me for what came next. I waited for what felt like minutes but I know was only seconds. I gave her space and I listened.
Sometimes all you can do is listen.
"The doctor... his office.... it's cancer."
I could hear her voice shake and trail off. One of the strongest women I know was trying to stay strong, hold it together... but I knew better, "It's OK to cry," was all I could manage to offer in that moment...and then silence.
The silence gradually gave way to discussions of fears, worries, test schedules, family responses, homeschooling plans and more concerns. We walked over the often un-talked about side-effects of her next surgery, which I had personal experience with. I tried to keep her focused on the up-beat and I encouraged her to laugh at it all.
This sweet friend of mine is so strong, but in all that I know of the path lying before her, it is going to be a bumpy road. With 3 boys and a loving husband needing her... a very bumpy road.
My heart hurts to the point of breaking.
I cry when it is quiet because all I know is, as the days and weeks push ahead, if I am anything, I want to be strong for her. When her strength fails and her heart breaks I don't want to break too. So I will break in the silence if it makes me strong when words must be said. I may not be able to stand physically close and hold her hand or wrap my arms around her tight so I can whisper "Jesus loves you, you've got this." But I can pray here. I can wrap my hand around the phone and hold it tight to whisper, "Jesus loves you, you've got this."
Others very close to me have had to fight this battle in recent years. Some have lost... some have won. Advancements are happening at break-neck speed right now and chances are rapidly improving. But that doesn't remove the sting.
As I ponder all of this, as I roll over the hurt and the heartache and the memories, a message plays heavy in my mind...
In the Void of Cancer
... you are not alone
It may feel a lonely place, a solitary battle and, at times, I am certain it can seem that way.
... but you are not alone.
Your God is with you.
He is your Comforter, rest in the folds of his robe, curl up in his loving arms.
He is your Healer, surrender to His touch.
And in these quiet moments of tender life, of mortality's questioning embrace, don't loose hope
don't loose love
don't give up.
Take moments, even if only breaths, hold tight the ones who love you and whom you love.
Speak into their hearts
forgive what needs forgiving
speak Light and Life and hope and love
Life isn't about lists and soccer games and PTA
It is about God's goodness in the good times, and in the dark times.
Even at our weakest points, He is our strength, our grace
allow this grace to pour through to family and friends who are dear
poured into with words
poured into with embrace
poured into with time, even if only quietly sitting and listening to crickets play or snow fall or babies laugh or the heavy breathing of a sleeping some-body.
Right now, simply be.
Heal and rest and love and let love and know that no matter the outcome, love is what is eternal.
Don't perform, don't even try. Just be.
Let people love you, encourage you, hold you, pray for you, cry with you, be silent with you.
They are the manifestation of God's grace and Holy hand reaching out and touching you, making His face to shine upon you.
The void of cancer is not a void at all when we pause to look around at the familiar company. To see islands of souls longing for connection, praying to make it through the space in-between. You don't need to do anything to fill that void except.just.be.... trust.... hope.
In the Void of Cancer
To the one who must stand what seems like idly by, give.
You are not idle.
You are needed, even when you feel pushed away.
Give time and love and patience.
Give listening ears and willing hearts.
You will not always understand. But you can keep standing
Give believing in the Hope of tomorrow, endlessly, tirelessly
Give space, comfort and peace
and whatever you give.. don't give up.
You.are.needed. Now, more than ever.
Hope. Hope in the Redeemer and know, no matter the outcome in this battle
God is still God and His ways are always best.
This place, right now, is not home... we are all just sojourners, passing through.
Thank Him for now and believe in Him for the future... wherever and whenever that is.
To all those out there with loved ones, or themselves, just finding out or in the trenches of the cancer battle... may you witness the hand of God on your hearts and His Peace in your lives, in the void of cancer.
Silently, heartbreakingly yours,