From a Widow's Pen

Reflections From the Heart

Category: Early Writings

The Toil (September 2013)

I remember vividly the day we were told that John had cancer. I remember my feelings, my fears, and the tears. But mostly I remember my husband’s tremendous optimism and how sure he was that God was going to carry us through this, refine us and make us stronger in the end. Granted we are not at the end yet, but I often find myself wondering if we have, in fact, gotten any stronger.

Physically my husband is far from strong. He cannot walk more than a hundred yards without having to stop and rest. He has lost a tremendous amount of weight. He is in a lot of pain and he has no energy. Emotionally, he is spent as well. He has very little patience with the children. Not that I blame him, I often have little patience and I am perfectly healthy. He and I rarely talk. When we are together we stare blindly at the screen or busy ourselves with whatever else may be going on. It is as if there is nothing left to discuss. We have accepted that this is life. His job is to get better. Mine is to make sure the family unit stays in tact. After that, there is little else to discuss.

Oh how I miss what we once had. When we were dating we’d talk for hours about our dreams and our future, what our kids would be like, where we’d travel, etc. Then once we had kids we threw ourselves into being the All American Family. We had a decent home and decent cars. We attended church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. In fact John was the worship pastor and I was the children’s leader. The girls were in dance classes and art classes. They took piano, gymnastics, swim lessons and participated in the community theatre (not all in the same semester of course). We were involved in what they did. We loved watching them and being a part of their activities. We homeschooled. John would come home for lunch almost every day and we would eat together. The girls would hold onto his legs as he tried to go back to work. They made it a ritual to stand outside and wave good-bye to daddy when he went back to work. We laughed. We loved. We enjoyed.

But this thing called cancer stole all of that from us. First the material was taken. We moved out of our house and into my parents’ home. We needed to come home so we’d have help with childcare and getting John to his medical appointments. And well, until that decent house nestled in a quiet neighborhood in Louisiana sold, we had to come home because financially we were strapped. We left almost everything we had with the exception of some electronics and clothes and moved from Louisiana to Oklahoma. We gave away our pets and much of our furniture. We said good-bye to as many friends as we could and we loaded up in the van and we moved. Cancer stole our home, our pets and our livelihood.

But the worse was yet to come. At first, we were strong. We were going to beat this. But the weeks wear on you and after awhile cancer began to steal our uumph. We no longer laugh. Instead we cry. We no longer play. Instead we hurt. We no longer enjoy. Instead we survive. My husband cannot go to much of my children’s activities. He often can’t even get out of the chair. He can’t spend time laughing with us anymore because he is recovering. My girls move through life without questions. There is really no reason to ask. The answer is always “because daddy is sick.”

Finally cancer stole my dreams. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and a stay at home mom. I wanted to be the one to do the daily raising of my girls and watch them grow up beautifully inside and out. I wanted to help guide them so that they’d make wise decisions and hopefully one day the ultimate decision to follow Christ. But cancer stole that as well. It took away my husband’s ability to work. I am so very thankful that I have a marketable skill and could find a good job but every morning when I head off to work, I leave behind that which I want most, my ability to be there for my girls, to experience life with them and to guide them and help shape them.

Of course I do not blame my husband. I love him. I miss him. He would not have chosen this path for himself or his family. But it is the path handed to us. Gone are the days of enjoying life. Replaced are the days of surviving life; working to pay bills and have health insurance. This is perhaps, my biggest regret, the life that I feel has been stolen from me in returning to work full-time. I miss my babies like you would not believe. I think sometimes I do blame John for taking that one thing from me. I know it is not his fault but I have to lash out at something.

I am curious to see if this cancer will steal all that we have or if it will slowly creep away, as it crept in. One day will we wake to find the cancer gone and my husband returned? Will the laughter and the childish ways of our girls return to our home on a regular basis? Will we enjoy each other as a family once again? Will there be anything left of our marriage? All questions I cannot answer with certainty. For now we hold onto the only hope we can grasp and try as hard as we might to protect our little ones from the harsh reality of life.

The answers will all come, one day…

Replenishment (November 2013)

As we struggle down this path called cancer. There have been only 2 constants – John’s poor health and God’s perfect provision. I do not understand how those without faith make it through crisis. No, I’m not looking for a debate, I’m simply providing a testimony. Without faith I would have caved long ago.

God keeps showing Himself faithful. He has not chosen to heal John yet and I do not know if He will. But He has ministered to us. He has provided for us financially – I have a good job, our house is now under a lease/purchase agreement and family and friends have made generous gifts to keep us afloat. We have been able to pay all of our bills and my kids have been able to continue in their sports without a tremendous financial strain.

God is providing for our children. Just this weekend, one of Elaina’s good friends from Louisiana drove down (well her parents drove) to spend the weekend with the girls. I worry about my girls. The day to day of watching their father suffer. Elaina, I worry about the most, simply because she is the one who is old enough to fully understand this situation with her father. She wants desperately to spend time with him. She sits in his room and just watches him. She has begun to complain about stomach pains and being ill. I attribute it to stress. I have prayed that she would make a good friend here in Oklahoma. Someone who lives close enough that they can come and play and hang out together. This prayer, I am still waiting on God to answer. So when He sent her friend from Louisiana, I was in tears over His wonderful gift. A weekend to enjoy with a buddy to get out of the house and away from the sadness. Thank you God for providing her that release.

God has also provided us a church family that loves us and cares for us. They brought an abundance of food and snacks when John was in the hospital. They listened to me cry and sent cards and encouraging notes.

My constant prayer is that John’s suffering ends soon. That he is either made whole again in his earthly body or taken to his heavenly body which knows no more agony. The sadness in the second scenario is for the girls and me. The things they will miss out on with him. The things he could teach them. Knowing the love of an earthly father and the strong arms to carry you through tough times, these are things I want for my girls. The thought of them missing out on that saddens me. They have/had such a wonderful daddy. And selfishly, I am grieved by the thought of walking through life without him as well. He has always been my Spiritual strength and guide, my companion, my husband. He is someone I could talk to, and laugh with and cry with.

I don’t know how this will end. But I do know that God is going to take care of us – John, the girls and me.

A Ray of Hope (December 2013)

A month ago, after John’s second surgery, the surgeon suggested there was nothing more he could do and the oncologist wouldn’t see us. It was a vicious cycle, oncologist says we have to treat the infection – talk to the surgeon; Surgeon says, infection is caused by cancer, kill the cancer, kill the infection. We were at a huge crossroads of despair. The surgeon suggested we call hospice and try and get his pain under control. He called the oncologist and made his suggestion and she agreed to see us.

Her plan, a hail mary pass at chemo again. It would not cure him but it would likely buy him more time. On the flip side, chemo for an individual this sick (malnutrition, known infection, recovering from major surgery) is very risky. We were warned that it could back fire and ultimately bring about his demise faster. But John is a fighter. He did not want to give up.

So we took the chance – and today, one month later, we are seeing definite signs of improvement! Is it working? Will this bring about comfort and a small level of normalcy back to our lives? Will it allow us the freedom to move out on our own? I’m not sure, but it does provide a ray of hope.

The Conclusion (February 2014)

He didn’t make it.

One Month Later (March 17, 2014 at 7:59am)

I looked down at the clock on my computer and am drawn back to the events of February 17, 2014. What was I doing that day? At 7:59am, I was taking the girls to school. We were running a little late that day so I’m guessing we had not yet made it to the Sunnylane exit by this time. But everyone was in fairly good spirits. I never had a true peace that morning about leaving John. But fear of having to call in “sick” again convinced me to go. As it turns out I would never actually make it to work. My step mom called around 8:30am. I could hear John moaning loudly in the back ground, almost screaming. I instructed them to call hospice and I headed for home my heart filled with fear.

I will not include most of the events of that day at this time. It is a day that still now replays in my mind. I shoulder much sadness, confusion and guilt over the events of that day. I will simply leave you with this: at 11:57pm he was gone, essentially 15 hours after I got back to the house and exactly three minutes before his daughter’s birthday. Even in death, he was a good daddy.

All the relief that I thought I would feel over him no longer being in pain was missing. It was not relief I felt. It was great sadness. My husband and best friend was gone. There was no longer any hope of God’s miraculous cure. Just loneliness and sadness and a huge sense of ‘what will I do now’. Everything finally settled about 3:30am. Friends, family, nurses, even the funeral home folks had come and gone. I thought I would sleep from pure exhaustion but I could not. All I could think about was that he was gone and I was alone. It was not fair. One month later, this is still my primary thought: He is gone. I am alone. It is not fair.

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