Facing the Giants

A friend invited me to go to Boston the other day.  The reason for going would coincidentally bring us to the same area as Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  Mike had his surgery and testing done at Brigham and his primary oncologist’s office is at Dana Farber.  If you are not aware, these are giant places in the medical community  where people come from all over the world to seek help. It is both intimidating and humbling walking through those halls and seeing warrior-like patients and their families who are dealing with serious medical issues.  I was not sure I wanted to be back in that environment.   And I was not sure I had the strength to wrestle with the memories. After all, giants are big, they are strong and they invoke fear. Whether it is a place, a memory, a person, or a situation, we feel powerless in the shadow of a giant and we can get stuck in that place of fear, unable to move.

When Mike was first diagnosed, I made a promise to him and to myself that I would not back down from any challenge and would walk faithfully with him through the journey no matter where it led us. I was “all in”. And I reminded Mike of that as it concerned my future – that I would continue to face challenges, i.e. giants, of all sizes no matter what. So after thinking that over, I decided it was time to face one of the bigger giants on my list.  The decision was made to go to Boston.  My dear angel of a  friend walked with me first through Brigham. I had to focus on steadying my weak knees and calming my thumping heart.  Eventually we ended up in a small sitting area – the place where we met Mike’s brothers before his surgery back in August. And the memories came flooding in. And what a flood it was.  My friend and I talked…and we cried…and we were silent.  And in time, the flood of emotions receded.  I knew I had to give that physical space over in order to loose it’s grip on my emotions. So I silently thanked God for meeting us there; both in August and in the present. Then we headed to Dana Farber.  We went to the 9th floor waiting room where Mike and I spent many days awaiting news of test results and treatment plans.  I did not have to wait long before the anger, sadness, and frustation bubbled up out of me.  Again, we sat, we cried, and we talked.  And  in time, the feelings diminished and I was able to recognize the power that the physical place had over me. And I thanked God for meeting us there and for being big enough to slay yet another ‘giant’ for me:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

I know that the memories and feelings will return again and again.  But now I have a new memory associated with those spaces. One where I faced the giants and handed them over to the One who is bigger and stronger and capable of overcoming them on my behalf. And hopefully I can start to view those places for what they are – institutions where medicine is practiced and where good things can and do happen.

The good thing about “good grief” is that you can move through it.  When the sadness/anger/frustration/loneliness/”fill in the blank here” hits you, it feels like you will never get through it.  For me, I need to be willing to take the time to feel the emotions, to recognize they are there….to talk about them with someone who can help me to see beyond that moment.  And I also remind myself that I am never, ever alone.

“The Lord is with those whose hearts are breaking.” Psalm 34

So giants beware.  I am on my way.  With one very very big God.

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What am I learning?

It has been about a month since my last post.  And I’ve learned a lot in that time.  Here is a list of some of the things I am learning:

  • EVERY thing takes much longer than expected; from making phone calls, to getting paperwork straightened out, to finding an elusive pair of pliers and getting out of the house on time. You name it.
  • I am starting to find interest in cooking again – I made dinner two nights in a row!
  • “Not every day is going to be a good day, but every day has good moments in it” – from a very wise woman who is a bit further down this same path
  • I can do this – a phrase I used frequently over the past six months
  • It is going to be OK – a wise counselor told me this
  • OK – my way of cheering myself on when a simple task is completed
  • I have a limit when socializing and fatique sets in quickly once I’ve reached that limit
  • I need “down time” to sit and think and reflect
  • I really don’t like the word “normal” whether it is “new” or not
  • It can take several months for a primary caregiver to recover from the exhaustion of caring for a loved one.
  • Grief has impacted how I feel when I exercise – this one is hard to explain
  • I don’t have to leave cooked spinach out of recipes anymore (Mike detested cooked spinach)
  • I learned more about Mike throughout his illness than I had in our 30 years together…and I loved and admired him even more on October 31
  • God does give us more than we can handle.  When I can no longer rely solely on myself, I more fully experience His love and care in a deeper personal way
  • Joy is different than happiness (an old lesson experienced on a whole new level). Happiness is dependent on circumstances.  Joy is not and can be experienced in the midst of great hardship
  • Focus on this moment in this day. Continue to make plans but know that God is already working on tomorrow.  And He is helping me face today’s challenges
  • Circumstances are ever changing.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit never change…never have…never will.
  • I will not always feel this way
  • “Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way!”  How true, how true.  (from Jesus Calling, January 16)
  • “Spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials” (Jesus Calling)

and

  • Dogs like to roll in smelly stuff that they find out in the woods (this is not a revelation…but a lesson relearned)

As you can see, I am learning many things each day. I want to do a better job of writing them down so I don’t forget.  But the biggest thing I know is how thankful I am that I know a God who will never leave me or forsake me; who will always love me and care for me. This song resonated with me today by Third Day, “I’ve Always Loved You“.