Tag Archives: Heaven

Children’s Hospital

20140725-204043-74443436.jpg

September is Histiocytosis and Children’s Cancer Awareness month

“Children’s hospital” is an oxymoron–not just two words that don’t belong together, but a thing that shouldn’t have to exist at all. Kids are supposed to be the healthiest among us. There’s something not right with whole buildings dedicated to things that go wrong with them.

Children’s hospitals are a bizarre proposition:  a place where the parents are as dependent as their children, depending on doctors for their schedules, their information, their hope. We’re easy to recognize in the halls, even without our special tags associating us with our VIP’s. You can tell us by our not-at-our-best appearance and by one of our standard expressions of fear, worry, or fatigue. We observe an assumed code of avoidance as we pass each other in the hallway:  because we don’t wish to be seen in the clothes we slept in, we grant each other the silent dignity of ignoring each other’s unwashed hair and tear-streaked face. Our zombie appearance barely conceals the grief and guilt and sheer terror on the inside. I often wept uncontrollably as I stepped outside of the hospital during our long stay, temporarily shedding the armor that I wore inside to protect and fight for my child.

Our children’s rooms are places of tenderness, but also of terror, where every day, every visit by a doctor has the ability to change our lives forever. The hallways are no refuge. Here other parents’ children are being moved to their next test or procedure:  bald, staring vacantly, heavily bandaged, hooked up to machines. We passed too many children’s rooms where, day after day, the only visitor was a nurse. A child without an advocate, without love, is the saddest of all.

There are also wonderful stories in these places, stories of healing and miracles and love. These stories must be what makes it possible for the dedicated staff to get up and face each day. Yet I am dismayed that these institutions are needed at all. I look forward to a place and time–somewhere, someday–when no child will ever hurt again.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Revelation 21:4

Advertisements

Questions

crop635w_college-choice-questions2

I’ve always had lots of questions. How do things work the way they do? Why did you just act that way? What’s over that next hill? Why are we here? I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid:  books, magazines, at age 12 my mother’s set of childhood encyclopedias. I loved the magazine Science that we subscribed to when I was a teenager; it made me want to be a theoretical physicist. After all, what better job could there be than answering the really big question of how the universe works?

While I’m grateful to now having a world of Google answers at my fingertips, I’ve resigned myself that many of my questions won’t be answered in this life. Some of them are random:  what is the purpose of dreams, and why will we die if we’re prevented from having them? Is there life on other planets, and what is it like? Does God love dogs as much as we do, enough to have them in heaven (I’m thinking yes)? But some of my unanswerable questions are more profound:  why is there suffering? What should I be doing with my life? Why must innocent children die? It’s part of the human condition to find ourselves in circumstances which force us to wrestle with questions like these.

My deep belief is that heaven will be a place where I will get all of the answers to my questions, plus many more I didn’t think of. I don’t believe in the vision of a harp-playing heaven in the clouds. In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn lays out a biblical case that heaven will be our own renewed Earth. While I find some of his points a bit of a stretch, the overall idea feels right. Why wouldn’t God–who made us in His image to live in this Earth home–give us a glimpse of our future home to prepare us for when we share it with Him? I believe we will work and play, and enjoy art and music and each other for all eternity. And there will be plenty of time…and patience…for me to finally get answers to all of my questions.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  –Voltaire


Easter

We love Easter. Easter is a time of hope and rebirth. Spring is in the air, the weather warms. But this Easter is especially poignant for us.

Last September, Megan had passed through the valley of the shadow of death. The chemo had done its job of arresting what only a decade ago would have been an inevitable, tragic conclusion. The worst danger had passed, yet all was not well. Her disease markers indicated remission had not happened. We packed the car with provisions for at least six months and drove to Cincinnati, the doctors telling us a bone marrow transplant was next.

In what I will always believe was a miracle, the doctors were wrong. We checked out only a month after we checked in, with Megan suddenly improving. In the best possible circumstances of transplant, we would have been coming home only now. With any complications, we’d have been there for months longer. A little girl and her mother that we met have been there for two and a half years. We are beyond blessed.

As spring and Easter have arrived, I’ve been remembering what could have been. We’d have gotten through it, as people do when they have no choice. Instead, we will dye eggs and decorate Easter cookies and plant our garden. We will laugh and eat a ham dinner together just like it’s supposed to be. But I will also remember those still fighting, still separated from home and family. And I will pray for them to receive the Miracle that we celebrate today.

 “And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”  –Luke 24:2-3


Tragic

IMG_1799.JPG

I’m sitting on the bathroom floor with a box of Kleenex and the door closed so that Claire can’t hear me cry. I just read a Facebook post from someone I’ve never met about someone I’ve never met, and yet we’re all family. We share the tragic bond of loving someone with a rare histiocytosis disease. In this case, it cost an innocent two-year old boy his life.

Since joining this online community when our daughter was diagnosed, this group has been a lifeline for me of information and support. Though I have yet to meet any of them in person, I know more about some of them and their families than some I count as friends. We share in each others’ successes and struggles, sharing information and empathy. Occasionally, that also means sharing condolences when someone loses their battle to one of the horrific monsters that can steal our children and loved ones out from under our noses, even as we maintain vigilant watch.

Though in only two months I’ve already seen too many of these tragic endings, the one tonight hit me particularly hard for some reason. Maybe because he was so young and innocent. Maybe because I’ve relaxed a little lately as my daughter’s condition has stabilized somewhat, or maybe because she’s far away in a hospital four states from home. All I know is I went from doing the dishes to sobbing on the bathroom floor for a little boy and a family I’ve never met. My heart breaks for them. I have nothing to offer except my deepest sympathy and a sincere belief that, somehow, their little boy did not live nor die in vain.

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero


Lost

ribbon

A friend vanished from our lives last week. The shock has hit his community of friends hard…it isn’t supposed to happen this way. He and his son went hiking on an impromptu trip to the Colorado mountains and literally disappeared. They called off the search a week after they were last heard from.

I first met Damian as he was joining and I was exiting the women’s council at the company where we worked; it would be the first of three times we passed each other in transition. I was intrigued as to why a guy would ask to join an all-female group. That took courage, and because of it I admired him immediately. Damian is easy to like. He has a ready smile, and when he’s with you, he’s really with you. Since he went missing, I’ve been amazed not only at the number of my friends who knew him but who were also touched by him. They are dispersed not just geographically, but also by gender, age, and job. His family deserves to know how widespread his impact has been.

The shock of their sudden disappearance and lack of closure on their fate have been unsettling. Media headlines used the words “missing” and “lost”, but as I kept Damian and Evan in my prayers during the week of the search, I knew they were never really lost. None of us ever are. While we may lose our way, physically or spiritually, the God who made us and loves us is always with us. We may lose our ability to sense His presence, but He is there just as surely as the oxygen we breathe but cannot see.

My prayers have shifted to Katherine and Lauren as they deal with their loss. I have faith that Damian and Evan are now safe and loved and at peace. My wish for their family is some measure of that peace, knowing that the world is a better place through the many lives they have touched.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  –Romans 8:39


Funeral Music

ship

While the 1992 movie Prelude To A Kiss was only moderately entertaining, the main premise of the story stuck with me because it didn’t make sense…until recently. When a pessimistic young bride agrees to a dance and kiss at her wedding with a strange old man, they switch bodies a la The Parent Trap. We eventually learn it is because at that moment, each wished to be the other. I instantly understood why a cancer-stricken old man would want to trade places with a young woman, but why did she envy him? Apparently, the appeal to her pessimistic outlook was that at the end of life, there was no longer any reason to be afraid. I heard her words, but the explanation fell flat, making no sense to me.

I finally get it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly realized that human existence always has been, and always will be, hard. No one is immune, and that’s coming from someone who recognizes I’m more blessed than perhaps 99% of the world’s population. Philo’s famous request, to “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” is so true. The older I get, the more tired I get; I wouldn’t be young again for anything.

Yet, I haven’t become a pessimist – quite the opposite. It may sound morbid, but I long ago chose the music for my funeral. I’ve gone to lots of funerals of loved ones–some of which are great memories, though the mood was far from festive. I’ve chosen my music to send a clear signal about my own beliefs. Though it’s normal to be sad at a funeral for those we will miss, I don’t want my family and friends to grieve for me–there isn’t any reason to. I’ve had a good life (hopefully far from over), I’ve been loved, and I feel that I’ve made a difference. Most importantly, I don’t believe death is the end. I’ve discussed why I believe that before.

At my funeral, I want Jimmy Durante’s I’ll Be Seeing You played. I chose this song because I believe it, plus it’s impossible to listen to Jimmy Durante’s voice without smiling. I’ve also chosen Into The West from Lord Of The Rings. It imagines souls as ships passing from this horizon onto the next. Just because we can no longer see them does not mean they are no longer there. And finally, I want The Old Rugged Cross played. It’s one of the old hymns from my early Baptist days, but I mostly want it in honor of my beloved grandfather, who requested it played at his own funeral.

But the finale needs to be this short video of Gonzo the Muppet singing I’m Going To Go Back There Someday. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it…it’s guaranteed to leave you smiling. I suppose that’s how I really want to leave all of you someday.

The Unknown Shore

“A ship sails, and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, She is gone. Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large now as when I last saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her. And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone, there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon, and other voices take up a glad shout … There she comes! That is what dying is. A horizon and just the limit of our sight.”

–Bishop Brent


Vulnerable

I lost a dear friend this week. Barry, loving husband and father of two amazing boys, was only 42. He was smart, affable, and well-read, and he gave me one of the most valuable gifts one person can give to another:  the freedom to be vulnerable.

I met Barry when I moved to a new job. For a year, I worked to get to know Barry a little, as with everyone in our department of 65. One day it suddenly clicked–we discovered a shared taste in books. That common interest accelerated our friendship, but we were still only casual colleagues. Shortly after that discovery, Barry made another:  he had stage IV brain cancer. He went on leave for the first of many surgeries, in an effort to aggressively fight this monster. While he was at home recovering, I was quietly finishing a 3-year journey to publish a book on the nature of heaven. Very few people were aware of this effort–it was a deeply personal journey. As I completed the draft, I began thinking about sharing my work with trusted others to get their feedback. It was a terrifying proposition, but I knew the day was coming that I would have to get comfortable sharing it.

One day while thinking about Barry and his recovery, I was struck with a thought: should I ask him to review it? He was a nice guy, and we shared an interest in books, but making this substantial request on such a personal subject of a casual colleague fighting his own significant battle felt over the line. I did nothing for two weeks, but couldn’t shake the idea. I finally mustered the courage and sent him an email at home. My answer came a few days later.

Barry graciously agreed to review my draft and give me feedback, but he wanted me to know one thing:  he was agnostic. We had our pact. Barry took his time, and when he returned to the office weeks later, we sat down one afternoon in comfy chairs in the atrium while he shared his suggestions for my manuscript. I was in awe. Barry was thorough and thoughtful in his feedback. With his wife Anna’s input, he had put in a lot of thought and effort for someone not much more than a stranger. And his edits were awesome–I made changes on 90% of his suggestions. He made my book significantly better.

I’ve always been a private person; it generally takes time for me to open up. Writing a book on a deeply personal topic and then sharing it with others took me well outside my comfort zone. Barry gave me a safe place to take my first small baby steps on that terrifying journey. He was candid but kind. And in doing so, he gave me a meaningful life lesson–that when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with others, wonderful things generally happen. I am more open and my life is richer today because of people like Barry who have shown me kindness and caring. Barry, you made an impact on this once-stranger, and you will be deeply missed.

“Don’t say we have come now to the end.
White shores are calling; you and I will meet again.”

–Annie Lennox, “Into The West” (The Lord Of The Rings)