Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not Giving In...Giving Over

Science is designed to ask the questions of what and how. But when it comes to the why, it screeches to a halt. It is efficient when you ask questions like: Why do cancer cells grow? What are they?

However, science is quiet when you ask: Why is there cancer? Why is there disease at all?
Science makes conjectures about environment, DNA deficiencies, and the effect of stress on the human body as reasons for cancer. But if you asked a scientist why cancer came into the world, they’re gonna be the first to tell you that first, they don’t know and second they deal with facts and scientific discovery only. 

Those are small comforts to the families dealing with loved ones plagued by the disease.The question why is the one we are desperate to answer.

However, as usual, nature shows us the bigger picture and answers what science can’t. 

This is my pear tree this year. I have nurtured it from a stick about three and half feet tall, to this lush sapling. It will never be huge because it is a semi-dwarf—because the harvester is a semi-dwarf. 

For the last couple years it has produced pears of two varieties, red and Asian pears. The branches produced the blossoms in the spring and fruit in the summer. This year the fruit is bigger and tree branches droop, they yield to the weight of fruit. Stress on the branches is evident, but the tree is not giving up, it’s giving over…for the eventual higher gain.

2014 has been fraught with friends’ anguish over their dying parents. The comment is always, “well, we’re getting to that age…” Ugh. Once each month of this year, I’ve gone to the funeral for a dear friend’s parent and each time I share in their loss and their pain. 

My mom was a very private person. She didn’t like to talk about herself but her cancer journey spanned over twenty years. When she was 54 years old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, radiation, chemo and finally a bone marrow transplant. For four months she carried a mini trash can with her just in case she “lost her lunch” as she put it. She still had kids at home and she fought hard to live so she could usher them into adulthood. 

In the process of all the treatment, she lost part of her eyesight, part of her hearing, her stomach lining changed so that foods she enjoyed before she couldn’t eat anymore, and there was a black spot on her brain scans where her short term memory had once been. During the next twenty years after she was “cured,” she endured many different diseases because her immune system had been so severely compromised. But she never complained. She smiled, loved and kept going. She never gave up and sometimes I would tell her she must be caring around an imaginary sword to fight off the defeating feelings she most definitely was fighting.

A little more than a year ago, my mom was diagnosed with myelo-dysplasia syndrome. It’s a disease that strikes the marrow of your bones so that they can’t make blood cells the way they used to. Eventually you are left with no new platelets, red or white blood cells and your body collapses. This picture of her hand is one of the only ones she would let me take of her during her myelo dysplasia treatment (blood transfusions only). She was determined to make it to Christmas.

Doctors told her she could possibly go through another bone marrow transplant, but things were different this time. Her children were grown, she had 17 grandkids and she was now 73 years old. She had accomplished many more things. So when the docs and her family looked to her decision on a transplant, she just shook her head. The devastating emptiness swept through the cavern of my stomach and radiated out to my crushed heart. Some of us didn’t understand her decision. But her answer was, “If God is calling me home, who am I to say no?” No one could fight with that response.

Later my dad explained it differently. “She’s not giving up, she’s giving over.”

Again I am humbled by my mom’s understanding of life. She was asking herself why she would go to extremes to stay in this life when there was something better and so profound on the other side. Everlasting life makes this short time on earth seem trivial. 

My mom was a fighter. She carried her imaginary sword with her at all times. In the end, she didn’t put down her sword or kneel to defeat. She never submitted to the enemy. Never. 

She simply gave herself over to God and bravely walked through a door to another life. She showed her family how to do it. She modeled parenting to the very end.

To all my friends who must watch their parents suffer and diminish, I salute you. It’s a devastating time that hurts because we are losing the person who has loved us unconditionally our whole lives. 

And yet, even in that light we can see that they are showing us yet another gift. In their suffering and our loss, they show us that the One who has always loved us unconditionally is really Christ. That is the true fruit of the Truth.