Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elise, 8 years later

Eight years ago this month, my daughter, Elise, was diagnosed with lymphoma. She was ten years old.
As a cancer survivor, I should have been prepared to handle the experience. I wasn’t. Knowing terminology and procedures meant little when I had to enter Elise’s hospital room to tell her she had cancer. I had to dig deep and hold on tightly to my composure when she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “Momma, I don’t want to die.” Then it happened. The depths of grace, peace, and faith I had experienced throughout my own ordeal with cancer guided our conversation. Elise faced her future with calmness, maturity, faith, and tenacity far exceeding her age. An ambulance later transported us for the first of many trips to Children’s Hospital.
My husband was able to be with Elise most of the time, but one rare day he had to be in the office, so I brought her to the hospital for another dose of chemotherapy. On the menu was the drug I had begged the doctors not to administer. It was the one which, years before, made me lose my hair, and everything I ate or drank. It was the one that caused severe burns on my hands and feet. So severe I couldn’t even pick my hair up off of the pillowcase. So severe I had to crawl to the bathroom on my knees when I became sick.
As the nurse donned her thick protective gloves and connected the chemicals to my daughter, I began to crumble inside. I watched the red liquid enter my baby’s body, and fought for control over both my emotions and the contents of my stomach. Then I raced to the exit door, ran out of the building, and called my husband to desperately cry, “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.”
“I’m leaving now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Michael said.
“No,” I insisted. “It’ll be over before you get here. Just pray. Promise me you’re praying. Promise me you won’t stop praying.” Being fully aware of my frailty has taught me to lean heavily on my Jesus, and the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
I re-entered the room, and if Elise noticed anything odd about my behavior, she never expressed it. That night, she became ill and a few days later, I found chunks of her hair in the bathroom garbage can. Soon after, she ditched the wig, and began wearing her brother’s baseball cap to cover her scalp.
“How do people go through this without Jesus?” she asked. It is one of many questions for which I have no answer. I cannot imagine going through anything without leaning on the strength of my Savior.
This week, I watched Elise, now in her second year of college, as she showed me the shortcut to Children’s Hospital she learned while volunteering there last summer. I watched her lead me through side doors, and hallways, to waiting rooms. I watched her fill out forms, and sit, and wait to be called, but I looked away when she said, “This test is really uncomfortable.” And as I turned away, I watched parents pushing wheelchairs, and holding infants, and adjusting caps covering precious little bald heads.
Tonight in my prayers, I’m including parents who are in Children’s Hospital, trying to sleep on chairs that convert to beds, never wanting to leave their child alone. May they have the strength to continue in the fight for their child’s health. May they receive answers to the cries of their hearts. And may they realize they can lean on the strength of Jesus to go through each day of it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mercy, Mercy

“Have you seen my school shoes?” Victoria asked, calmly.
Oh, how I dread that question, especially at 10:00 p.m. It almost delivered me from the ‘my youngest child only has three more years of high school’ thought that has been echoing in my mind this past week. “No, Victoria, I have not seen your school shoes.”
“I’m pretty sure I left them in the locker room. I had P.E. last period, then cheerleading practice after school. Yes, they’re in the locker room.”
“So, now what?” I, the mother, asked the child. “Do I write a letter? Do we go to school early to search for the shoes? Do I keep you home until the store opens and I buy another pair?”
“Hmmm, I’m not sure,” she quietly said. I was a little surprised by her demeanor. Just a few hours before, she had yelled at her sister for chewing too loudly. Now, in the midst of a real dilemma, she was deep in thought. This aspect of Victoria’s personality is a lot like mine. The more stressed I am, the quieter I become as I try to sort out my options.
“I’ll find some,” she announced. She sent a text message to her friend, Megan, who contacted her cousin, who said that Victoria could borrow her shoes. Within minutes, two more families were drawn into our little late night drama.
As we drove to pick up the shoes, I thought how some parents, and even some psychologists, would advise me to send her to school without the shoes, allow her to suffer the consequences, and learn a lesson. However, since I’ve been the one who has been blessed to raise Victoria Grace, she’s stuck learning lessons my way.
I’ve not only accidentally forgotten things, but I’ve made also made wrong decisions, and sometimes said things I should not have even thought. At times such as these, I quickly fall on the mercy of the Father, and quietly wait to hear His voice. My soul is refreshed when I remember the words of Lamentations 3:22, 23, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh every morning.” If there are consequences, I know they are buffered by the love of my God. Because of His graciousness towards me, I don’t deny it to my children.
I pray Victoria lives her life fully aware of the unfailing love of her Heavenly Father. As she moves from dependence on me, to dependence upon Him, I want her to bask in His love, swim in His mercy, and be quick to extend it to others.
Okay, and I want her to remember her school shoes.