Nate’s pain woke him with the message that it was time for his meds. After he took the pills, we spent time chatting in bed, waiting for relief to come. We talked about when the kids were little, remembering funny things they’d said. Then suddenly he became introspective.
“Life’s interesting,” he said. “Its like you come up against a wall that’s ten feet tall but you can’t see over it. On the other side is your future. You want to see it, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t.”
I believe he’s beginning to absorb the truth of his pancreatic cancer, the raw statistic that of 37,000 people who had this disease last year in our country, 95% of them died within their year of diagnosis. Nate is a numbers man. He’s logical. He understands bad odds when he reads them.
“I want you to dig out my life insurance policy today so I can refresh my mind about its terms,” he said. “We also need to find my will and re-read it. And I want to be sure you have power of attorney. That’ll make everything easier when I’m not around.”
I wanted to sit bolt upright and yell, “Stop! What about the other 5%? Maybe that’ll be you!” But something inside my head said, “Don’t interrupt. Let him say what’s on his mind.” It was God I’m sure, making me bite my lip. When Nate finished talking, I agreed to find the files.
After a morning nap, he re-opened the subject. “Can you hunt for those documents now?” I found them, and then sat quietly with my Coke Zero, watching Nate study the life insurance policy. He knit his brow and then nodded slightly.
“I think you’ll be ok, even if you live into your nineties.”
“It’s awful to think of you not being here,” I said, fighting tears but trying to sound like we were having an everyday conversation. “Maybe we could take a trip in the near future, like to Greenfield Village or someplace.” But both of us knew my suggestion wasn’t compatible with the immediate future we could already see.
“Sure,” he said, wanting to make me happy. “Good idea.”
After he studied all the documents, he seemed to be satisfied. He rested his head back on the chair, folded his hands over his chest and closed his eyes.
“You know,” he said, “even if I could jump up and get a quick look over that wall into my future, by the time I really got there, it would have changed anyway.” And in that statement, there was a letting go of the pressure to control what he knows he cannot.
Twice in recent days Nelson has quoted this phenomenal Proverb:
“A man’s heart devises his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Nate has made his plans. They include insurance, a will, power of attorney and other things. But today he accepted the truth that he can’t control what actually happens. God will be the one to say when Nate’s earthly steps stop and his heavenly ones begin. But there is nothing to fear. Quite the contrary, its all good news:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)