During every hour of this day my mind has jumped back 12 months to September 22, 2009. I remember driving the 80 miles from Michigan to downtown Chicago, picking up Nate at the curb in front of his office at Wabash and Monroe, and heading across town to Rush University Medical Center. We were scheduled to meet with a team of doctors who had studied our “case” and reached a conclusion as to what was wrong with Nate. Today I’ve been mentally back at that meeting receiving their report: Nate had terminal cancer.
We both knew he had a mysterious mass on his liver. We also knew he was scheduled for back surgery but had “failed” the pre-op physical. And we both hoped the team of doctors was going to give us good news, something like, “Nate’s mass is benign. We’ll remove it during spinal surgery, and he’ll be as good as new.” A year later, I see how these thoughts were tantamount to wishing on a star.
Just a week ago, all of us except Nate were gathered in northern Wisconsin, enjoying being at the same place at the same time. We shared laughter, conversation, prayer, fun, work and each other. Today, blending the warmth of those days with our cold day of discovery a year ago, I wonder how we got here, why we’re still standing. I feel like the answer might be found in looking back.
Last fall, we watched our husband/father receive his diagnosis, absorb the shock, do his best to put his life in order, decline physically and finally die, all in six weeks. Many of the details are a blur. Something deep within me wants to climb back into that painful time, to inspect everything under a magnifying glass and see what we experienced.
I’m not sure why I feel compelled to do that. Some of our children want to avoid remembering. Others want to remember it all. Returning to the scene of our family trauma is, for me, a way to honor Nate’s memory. But each of us will have to cope in the way that seems best.
When I think of Nate being selected to go through intense pain and die at age 64, leaving all of us “too soon,” his own words ring in my ears. “I shouldn’t ask, ‘Why me?’ Instead, ‘Why not me?”
There was wisdom in those words. More than that, though, there was permission for the rest of us to accept his diagnosis because he had. As I travel back during these next weeks and read my own blog-report of each day, I’ll be asking the Lord, “What should I be thinking?”
Nate was thinking as God wanted him to a year ago, refusing to fight his “fate” or rebel against his approaching death. For all of us, he was a sterling example of grace under pressure.
which is also the reason we’re still standing.
“To all… who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)