Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A letter (tears flowing!)

Dear Isaac,
I hope you are having a great time on your tour of the world with God.  I know you've probably seen every bird you ever talked about wanting to see, and every nook and cranny of our earth by now.  I wish I could be on that tour with you, but I guess when I get there, you'll just have to be my tour guide.  You can show me all the things you know about Heaven that I don't know yet, and "na-na-na-na boo boo" at me that you know more than I do!! 

Things back here on earth are going okay.  I always told you I'd be okay, and I am.  I just miss you.  I remember that I used to tell you the part of your death I dreaded most was the time between "There's nothing more we can do for Isaac" and your last breath.  But now, I think the past 2 weeks have been the hardest.  At least during your last month, when I was sad, I could climb into your hospital bed and even though you were totally loopy and out of it, you'd still give me a kiss.  I remember one time I was crying, and you pointed at my tears and said "I'm not sure what all this is about"...and it made me laugh.  You always made me laugh no matter how bad I was feeling.

Sometimes I look back and I wonder what I'd do differently if I could have a "do over" with our relationship.  The only thing I can come up with is...I'd have married you sooner.  If I had known that we'd get just 8 short months of married life, I'd have had you drive us straight from Wildwood Lake where you proposed, to the courthouse in downtown York.  I'd have started our married life immediately. 

I loved being your wife.  I miss waking up beside you every morning and coming home to you at the end of every day.  I miss cooking for you, and the silly things you did like putting way too much cheese in your chili.  I miss how hard you worked at being a great husband, and how proud you were everytime you did something "husbandy" like mowing the lawn or fixing something around the house.  I miss how much you cared for the youth at our church, how you wanted Charley and Weston to seek passionately after God, and how you found creative ways to demonstrate His love for them even when they least suspected it.  I miss how you encouraged people like Kreeger, and Caleb, and Chris (all of them!) to question and wonder and speak openly about their faith.  I miss how you always had to try to do things better than Ned, I think iron definitely sharpened iron in your relationship with him - you two always tried to outdo each other, but you both came out better in the end because of it.  I miss how did things like buy a book on reptiles for a hurting teen, not because you wanted to try to win him over or something, but just because you knew he liked reptiles and the book made you think of him.  I miss your excitement over the fact that we could have lots of "couple friends", and through that I met the McGinnis's and the Suereths.  I miss how much you loved your sweet sister, how you were so proud of the way she was seeking to find her own walk with Lord and you always wanted to hang out more with Abbi.  I miss how much you wanted to learn from your dad, and how even though you would nag at your mom, you always said "my mom is AWESOME". 

But the thing I miss most of all is the way you encouraged and loved me.  Whenever I was having a really bad day, or something really important was happening like a job interview or an observation, you'd send me text messages and emails to remind me that you loved me...and when I'd come home, you'd tell me you prayed for me all day and then you'd ask me about every little detail.  I remember one Monday morning, after a Sunday night I spent REALLY not wanting to go to work the next day, I woke up to find a sticky note with "I love you" written on it stuck to the cabinet in the kitchen...and another on the bathroom mirror, and on the steering wheel of my car, and on the page of the book I was reading, and inside my computer screen when I opened my laptop.  I miss you.

I know that you are so happy now...happy to be free of cancer and enjoying all that God has to offer in Heaven, and I rejoice for you every day.  It's just lonelier down here on earth now that you're gone. 

I can't wait to see you again!  I love you!
Still your wife,

P.S.  Could you please ask God to let you use Facebook from Heaven so I can keep updated on your status?  Thanks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Psalm 6 kind of mood

The past few days I've been feeling a bit like David in Psalm 6.  Today marks 7 weeks without Isaac.  And I think it finally sunk in. 
The first 2 weeks or so, I was so overcome with relief that I didn't feel the grief - I was just so glad that he was in a better place, not feeling any pain, and that neither of us had to worry about cancer or doctors or medical bills anymore.  Then, I went back to work and was able to distract myself with my work friends and my students.  But the beginning of this week it was like it all just hit me.  I wanted to curl up in my bed with my cats and just sob (which, I did last night).  The reality that life keeps going on, the days keep going by, and Isaac keeps not being here is finally sinking in.  Sunday I was sad, Monday I was weepy, but yesterday was the worst.  I cried before I got out of bed, while I brushed my teeth, while I ate breakfast, on my way to school, during my planning period at school, on my way home from school, in the car before going into the gym, in my car after leaving the gym, at the grocery store, and finally at home.  This song was my heart's cry: "Homesick" by Mercy Me "You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times.  And at least a thousand times, I've rejoiced for you.  But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry, is how long must I wait to be with you?  I close my eyes and I see your face.  If home's where the heart is, than I'm out of place."
I know there are many, many people in my life who I could've called to come sit with me while I cried, but really - the only person I wanted to be there was Isaac.  I think that's been the hardest part of this whole experience.  The one person I want to be there while I am crying is the person I am crying about.

Really, I expected him to still be here at this point.  When we were in Houston in December, we made plans to return for another appointment over Easter weekend.  Isaac was determined to make it to at least April 6th, so he could say he was one of the 1 in 5 osteosarcoma patients to live past 5 years.  If you knew Isaac, than you know he was STUBBORN, and I thought surely if he set his mind to living until April 6th, he'd live until April 6th. 

So today, I'm trying to have an Isaiah 61 kind of day - "God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes" (v. 3) - and allow God to take my pain and use it for good.  I feel better so far today - much more emotionally stable!  I didn't even cry this morning when I pulled out the toothpaste tube and saw "12/21/09" written on it, which Isaac did because he wanted to see how long it took us to use the whole tube.  That's such an "Isaac thing" to do, isn't it? 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Put your sword away!

Twice this weekend the same passage of Scripture came up for me.  Once on Saturday while I was doing some devotions, and once today during Pastor Ed's message.  In both contexts, it was about forgiveness.  I've prayed and prayed if there was anyone in my life I was struggling to forgive, and have come up empty.  (That's a good thing, yay for good people in my life!)  But, as I mulled over this passage in my mind, I realized there was a lesson for me in the words. 

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.

"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)

When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?"

And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth."

"I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go."

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
(John 18:1-11)

Peter...the disciple so many of us identify with.  As Pastor Ed said, he seemed to have a "foot shaped mouth", always saying the wrong thing or making some kind of mistake.  He acted before he thought things out.  Peter swore his allegiance to Jesus.  If you were passionately loyal to someone, like Peter was to Jesus, and their life was being threatened...and you had a sword...wouldn't you do something about it?  Peter did.  He reached out with his sword and took a swipe at that soldier, cutting off his ear.  The thing is, Jesus never asked him to do that.  Jesus never wanted Peter to fight a battle for him.  Jesus knew that He was to follow in God's will, even if that will meant His own death on the cross.

I felt a bit Peter-ish in our battle against cancer.  Like I was cutting off ears in an effort to save Isaac, when his earthly healing was never God's plan.  I read about other people brandishing their swords in the battle against cancer, too.  Cutting off an ear here, maybe a finger, if you're lucky -  a whole leg...refusing to accept that their loved one's cup might be death.  Please don't misunderstand me, I'm certainly not saying that I think anyone fighting cancer with a poor prognosis should just give up.  But, during Isaac's last weeks here, I was the one who had to decide it was useless to continue giving him treatment.  That was one of the hardest decisions I had to make.  But, looking back, I know that giving him another IV of medication would have been like Peter cutting off that soldier's ear.  Sure it might have hurt the cancer a little bit, but it wasn't going to stop it and it wasn't going to prevent or even prolong the inevitable.  It was in that decision, that God said to me "Put your sword away!" and asked me to just allow Isaac to drink the cup God had given him. 

That's where my peace comes from.  That's why when people ask me "How are you doing" with a sad look in their eyes, I can look back at them and smile and say "Better than I ever expected to be".  I am just so sure that Isaac is in Heaven and that this was God's plan all along.  I also know that if I can get through this time in my life, God will get me through anything.  He didn't abandon me in this time of need, He is right by my side every single step of the way.  I'll just keep putting my own sword away, and let Him fight it out for me!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Message

My friend Michelle shared a video with me today that brought me to tears sobs.  You may remember a post I wrote back at the end of January, where I was just hoping for a few minutes with a lucid, "normal" Isaac to make sure he was okay with dying and just talk to him.  I never had that.  From that weekend in January on, Isaac was never "Isaac" again.  There were things he did that showed us he was still there, and we did have conversations where he told me in his loopy voice that I was doing a great job taking care of me, and that he said when he got to Heaven he wouldn't have to worry about all the cancer anymore, and that he was just plain exhausted.  But I never got even one minute of regular Isaac again. 

Then Michelle sent me this video, and I'm pretty sure it's the "sign" or "message from Heaven" I've been waiting for - the message that tells me that Isaac is okay and that he was okay with the portion God had given him even unto death.  I think if Isaac could video tape his thoughts in his last month of life, it'd sound a lot like this guy:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Life Change

I'd never really thought about it before, but this time of year was a time of significant life change for both Isaac and myself.  For me, it was April 4, 2004 that I went to see a co-worker in the Easter play at my church, and one week later began my journey with Jesus.  For Isaac, it was 5 years ago today - April 5, 2005 - that his doctor told him the nagging knee pain was osteosarcoma. 

I was looking back through some messages I'd sent Isaac on Facebook, before we even were dating, and in one I said that I just prayed that: 1) God would continue to show Himself to be faithful to Isaac, and 2) God would do something to remind Isaac that he was not fighting this battle with cancer alone.  I realize looking back, that I think I was the answer to my own prayer!  God took a little over 3 years to bring Isaac and I into each other's lives, but the perparations He made for us to be right for each other began long before that. 

Going through life is like putting together a puzzle without the picture on the box to guide you.  Sometimes, you have no idea what pieces go where, how the pieces all fit together, or what the picture is going to look like in the end.  But, then you find that all those random pieces somehow do fit together to make something unexpectedly perfect.