Wednesday, September 9, 2015

These past nine months

Hey siblings and kids,

In the previous email I shared some reflections about career and family as a result of Carol's diagnosis and the resulting changes in my life. I hinted that I have been learning so much from Carol during these months. I'm not so sure that I am learning, I am more of an observer. In this installment I thought I would share a little of what I have observed these months from Carol and friends since her diagnosis.

Observation #1 -- Surround yourself with praying friends and family
Immediately after the initial diagnosis, Carol created an email list of friends and family she new would pray for her. She has spent many hours at the computer sending out updates and then reading the encouraging responses. As a side note, it took many hours typing after the elbow replacement because her left hand no longer worked. In the months after the surgery, it was amazing the number of things we discovered you can't do when your left arm no longer works. But, back to the list. Creating such a list would not have been my first response. I would try to tough it out alone. Thank you very much. But I have seen how it has helped her process the difficult times. Hearing the results of blood tests, or an x-ray or biopsy often takes a couple of days to process. She is quiet while processing but I know she has worked through it and is going on with life when I hear her laughing on the phone with friends and family.

Observation #2 -- Take the initiative
Music has always been an important part of Carol's life. She is always humming. If you want her to hum something different just switch to a different radio station. Church choirs seem to be coming non existent these days and Carol really misses singing in a choir. Upon reading an article in the local paper about the SouthBay Singers community choir, it was somewhat surprising to me how insistent she was about going and seeing what it was all about. At the first practice she was sure she wanted to join. Hmmmm….if I am going to support her, I might as well join as well. The final performance was a month and half ago. Just this past week I heard her humming some of the songs from the performance. It is important to do those things that define who you are.

Observation #3 -- Be open to grace through others
We live in a culture of rugged individualism causing us to shy away from help. So many friends and family have been there for us during this time through their presence and gifts. We have received so much food. We regularly have to go through our freezer and use the overflow that was frozen. Then there are thoughtful gifts. There are socks forever known around here as "Susie's socks." There have been CDs of music and special handmade blankets. Every night Carol sleeps with a blanket made by Keri that depicts the 23rd Psalm. The list goes on and if I tried to list them all I am sure I would leave some out. There are those who drop by and pray for us, meet us at the chemo center and just be there with us. There are couples who regularly play cards with us. In addition to the prayers of those on Carol's email list, we hear stories of people praying for us that don't even know what is going on, they just know they should be praying for us. What beautiful expressions of grace we have experienced. God uses all kinds of expressions. If you think you should do something for someone, it may be a prompt from God.

Observation #4 -- Express your faith in God's care
You have probably heard about family camping trips where something disastrous happened and years later when the family is reminiscing it is those disastrous times that you remember with fondness because of what you experienced together. The disaster was a bonding experience. There have been a couple of those times for me  over the past months. They are usually when we are going to an appointment that is not on our normal schedule. We are usually in the truck, driving to San Jose for a consultation, or to Santa Clara for radiation, or to South San Francisco for surgery, or to San Francisco for a biopsy and during the trip we are listening to the CD of the Haven quartet sent to us by Susie. I find myself looking over at her humming and singing to the music and I become aware that this is a time when God's presence is very close, she is wrapped in his care and expressing joy through the music. It is priceless to be there and behold. These times are not often but occur usually when there is some anxiety, difficulty or unknown test results. These moments are like the camping trip disasters. I wouldn't miss it for anything.

Observation #5 -- Grace in the mundane.
Most of the time our lives are not much different than before the diagnosis. You do the usual everyday things, wash dishes and clothes, mow the yard and trim the hedges, go grocery shopping and clean the floors. What is different is that the everyday things are now scheduled around a regimen of appointments and medication schedules. If it is Monday we will be having blood tests done. If it is Tuesday we will be going to San Jose for chemo. If it is 9 am you need to be taking these three medications and two insulin shots. If it is 11 pm you take these four medications and an insulin shot. Your life is driven by a schedule listed on a spreadsheet. I've watched her accept this new normal with grace, never complaining. Although it does get old and confining. Much of Carol's life revolves around balance…keeping the drugs tuned to the ever changing side effects. Recently, the insulin schedule of four finger pricks and five shots a day is beginning to wear on her. Is this going to go on the rest of my life? Carol has adapted to living one day at a time and the mundane of the every day life overshadows any long term planning and thinking. Many days it is just a drag.

I didn't mean to end on a low note, but there you have it, life goes on.There are high times and low times but mostly it just goes on. I no longer have work to drive my long term plans but now have a daily schedule that forms each day with the result that I am having to look for beauty and enjoyment in the everyday things. Some days I can and some days I can't. Just know that my trying to express these observations in words is a part of my processing these events. Sometimes it helps.

Hope you are enjoying your days. 

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