While Nate was struggling with his cancer, he often thanked me for helping him. He’d notice every little favor and then voice gratitude: “Thanks for reheating my coffee. Thanks for bringing me my good pen. Thanks for getting the mail.” Frequently he’d go a step farther and add, “You’re a good wife.”
I recall one moment as his physical strength was waning rapidly. I’d assisted with uncapping his toothpaste, getting him dressed and settling him into his lazy-boy. These mini-tasks were not difficult and took only a few minutes. After he was comfortable, I said, “Can I get you anything?”
He grabbed my hand, looked up at me with aching eyes and said, “What does a person do if they don’t have someone like you?”
It was an important moment as he acknowledged his helplessness, a guy who’d always run his life on fast-forward but now couldn’t even pull on his own socks. To be the helper is to demonstrate strength; to be the helped is to accept weakness.
Much of being able to handle serious sickness is coming to a place of need, then willingly accepting it. Nate could have morphed into a grumpy old man but instead became increasingly grateful.
How does an independent person, particularly a man who has been the head of a household and the one to lead, humble himself to be served? In Nate’s case, I believe the only explanation is that he and the Lord had been working together behind the scenes.
After we learned Nate had something wrong with his liver and pancreas, but before we knew it was cancer, I wrote out a prayer for him:
“As a result of the many difficulties Nate’s had and continues to have, I pray he will come to know you, Lord, in ways he never has before. Cause him to see new and spectacular things in your Word. In his feelings of weakness may he not despair but seek comfort from you to carry him through this misery. May he feel deep contentment and peace after placing himself in your care. Please do your heart-and-mind work within all of us to pull us through this health crisis.”
I realize, in looking back, how dramatically God answered those requests. Nate now “knows the Lord in ways he never has before,” because he’s in his very presence! He has “seen new and spectacular things” about God’s Word… because Jesus himself is the Word (John 1:1-2), and Nate is literally in his company! I prayed God would “carry him through this misery,” which he certainly did, bringing him straight into paradise! I asked that Nate feel deep contentment and peace in God’s care, a perfect description of his current heavenly existence. And Nate has been literally “pulled through his health crisis” into physical perfection.
He made a dramatic personal transformation during the six weeks he had cancer. He changed from a nervous, fearful Type A into a mellow, accepting man of tranquility. Because of steadily increasing pain and daily losses, this change goes against all logic, pointing instead to God’s work in Nate’s life.
Just as Nate was thankful for my help back then, today I am thankful for his excellent example and for God’s direct involvement in causing it.
“ ‘Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words…. and because you humbled yourself before Me…. I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 34:27)