I don’t know what prompted me to do it, but tonight I clicked on my email file entitled “Nate”. The day after we received his fatal cancer diagnosis, I started saving messages in this then-new folder. One of the first entries is the long letter I sent to my closest friends letting them know our dreadful news.
Following that are pages and pages of letters, literally hundreds of emails containing endless offers to help, promises of prayer, expressions of love, encouraging hymn-words and powerful Scriptures. Tonight I read one after the other for several hours until I was weak with gratitude.
I’m not sure what prompted me to delve into those emails. Maybe it’s that I’ve been missing Nate a great deal today, and possibly it’s because the non-stop activity of the last several weeks has quieted. As I plunked down in my flowered lazy-boy on a tiring 90 degree day without air conditioning, I was preparing for a prayer time when my thoughts turned to Nate.
Back then, as we took our first steps into the world of pancreatic cancer, we were uninformed and unproven. The pain escalated (both emotionally and physically), and the emails describe countless offers of (and eventually acceptance of) charity. Love-gifts are often difficult to accept, but gradually we understood that charity is simply another word for love. Even as I read the emails tonight, love radiated from the screen, and I was overcome with the thoughtfulness of others.
Reading was difficult, but I couldn’t stop, despite the tears. Overwhelmingly, the singular message to our family 20 months ago and to me tonight was of unfailing love, love from friends and relatives, and from God.
When a writer would say, “I have no words,” or “Words are inadequate,” they would often follow that with God’s words instead, a supremely comforting alternative. Isaiah 41:10 (below) was repeatedly mentioned.
Many corresponders reminded us we were all part of the same family, the family of God. How good it was to be steadily and repeatedly told of the bond we shared in Christ, because that assured us the emailers were now willing to share in carrying our burdens, too.
When I finally stopped reading, I felt like I’d been given a short course in “What to Do in a crisis.” Along with lots of love, emailers dispensed wisdom, encouragement, strength and hope in a hopeless set of circumstances. None of us knows exactly what to do when tragedy strikes, but these people all did something, and I’m so grateful.
Today I really missed Nate. Although it’s been a long time since I’ve gone back to those last 42 days with him, tonight it was the right thing to do.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)