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.