3/22/2009

Spring into Easter


The sun was streaming in the computer room window as I tried to decide what to write about for my blog. I heard the sound of children laughing next door as they were playing ball. The sight of the trees slightly bending in the wind made me smile. As I got up and peered out the window, I could see the two beautiful horses grazing just beyond the fence that backs up against our property. They always look so majestic and so content merely standing there grazing and soaking up the sun. Looking out in the distance I saw a neighbor walking his dog, a lady watering her newly planted flowers in the garden pot by her stoop and two kids riding on a four wheeler down our hill.

Oh, the sounds and sights of spring! Can there be anything more beautiful? How fitting it is that Lent goes thru the period when the world is just waking up from winter’s darkness. Right around the corner from Lent is Easter. This is the true Christians’ everywhere celebration of the resurrection timed perfectly with the blossoming of our outside world, almost a metaphor for our own internal awakening of sorts of the revelation of not just spring but life everlasting.

For God so loved the world that He gave us all things beautiful to see and adore!

I remember during a dark period in my own recovery from cancer a dear friend told me; when you doubt faith, take a walk. Look around on that walk and see how many examples you can find of God’s presence, His very existence. I found quickly, within two houses, He is everywhere. The signs are always there, we just fail to take time to notice or look.

Celebrate life this week. I challenge you to take a walk and look for how many signs are in your world around you of God’s existence. Whatever one stands out the most in your mind, hold that thought in your memory bank. The next day you feel a black cloud is hanging over your head, remember that image of what you saw that day…hold it close to your heart as a reminder, rain clouds are followed by rainbows…. Something else God created to show the vivid colors of the world He created, the diversity and the blending of all that is good.

May this Lenten period bring you to peer out your window, open it up, and close your eyes. May all of your senses see, smell and hear the sounds of life. And in that moment, when all your senses are invigorated and challenged, may it remind you, thanks to God, you have life everlasting!

3/16/2009

When to Say Good Bye?

When is the right time to say good bye? I am not even sure I like the sound of that word. If said in care, good bye implies absence of someone dear. Our spirits are far greater than our human bodies, so in that sense, we are joined, those of us that choice Jesus as our Savior and God Almighty our Father always. Hence, perhaps we never really need to say good bye?

As I rode to church this morning, I found myself suddenly reminiscing about Friday. That was a long two days ago. I had read the update on caring bridge about my friend late Thursday and learned, due to some complications he had been moved into hospice. The note sounded hopeful, that he would be out in a few days but my heart sank as the odds seem to continually be stacking against this wonderful man who came into my life over a year ago. I told myself visitors would probably be frowned on. To cement my desire to not go see him, I told myself I am so bad at directions I would probably get lost even finding the place.

On I went about my day Thursday, trying as hard as I could to put it out my mind, my friend’s deteriorating battle with Stage 4 cancer. It was no good, it kept reappearing in my thoughts as I went about my day and my work at the cancer society. Besides, was it not for men like Mike we were waging this battle against cancer? I let myself, through the day, remember the sound of his laughter, how his face lit up when he said something funny, knowing a robust chuckle was sure to follow! Mike is blessed with humor, at every step of his journey. As I left work that day, I mentioned to our receptionist which hospice he was in, and she told me it was within blocks of our offices. I still managed to come up with some reason or other not to go…

The next morning, another update appeared on my email. This time, Michelle, his wife, was asking for visitors. She wanted people that cared to come and see them both there. Where some folks would shy away from others when facing difficult times, Michelle has this uncanny ability to embrace them. And I knew, as I read that update, I needed to rethink my reluctance to go visit. I went to a meeting that opened and closed in prayer that morning, as if God was signaling me to go…..see my friend in need.

With wariness inside me, I drove the path that took me the hospice. Partly due to nerves and partly due to my horrible sense of direction, I circled the hospice three times before entering the parking lot. I went in the front door and was greeted by a receptionist of sorts. I signed the guest book and was told the direction to walk to his room.

Thus, began a long walk. The sound of the heels on my boots sounded deafening as they clicked on the hallway. Why could Mike not have gotten a closer room, one to the front so I would not have to walk so long. All around me were hushed voices, and many closed doors. I pictured in my mind folks on the other side, each with a story to tell, lying there awaiting God’s outstretched hand to take them to the heaven. I felt strange, out of place and uncomfortable. I, who has always said I fear not death felt afraid to be here. I kept walking but found my pace get slower and slower as I turned the corner and began down another corridor. Then, there it was, his room number. And the door was open…another sign I was meant to be there and go in. I think I half hoped it would be closed and I could only assume he was sleeping and it would be best to not disturb him or his wife.

I walked in and was immediately greeted by Michelle’s outstretched arms, comforting me. How can that be, when I am not the one living this nightmare but the cancer survivor? The softness of her smile and her voice showed such joy I had come to be there, if only for a moment. I looked past Michelle to Mike and saw a shadow of the man I once use to eagerly look for in the treatment room. He would sit there, laptop opened up, grinning ear to ear and I can still hear his booming hello as if I was the last one to arrive at a party! Now, what I saw before me was someone in the deep throes of cancer, someone in intense pain and discomfort, Mike hanging on by a thread.

Words escaped me at first. What to say? I had so much emotion flooding my insides that I thought my heart pounding must be audible to them both in this small room. Mike lay curled up on the bed and I said a quick prayer asking if now was the time.

God smiled, I felt it inside. Speak from the heart is what I felt God say, and so I did. I told this dear man lying curled up like a baby with a face as white as the sheets carelessly loose around him, how much he meant to me. I told him he will always live inside of me for I am forever changed for the privilege of having had him come into my life. I told him that his strength amazes me continually and I pray that I can one day have that kind of strength he has to fight this battle. I told him how lucky I thought his children were to have such a wonderful daddy to love and to have a daddy that so loved them. I poured my heart out to both him and Michelle so afraid, if I left without saying it, maybe another opportunity would not present itself. I saw a few tears escape from Michelle’s eyes and I saw the twinkle in Mike’s eyes, even in his current state that told me, at some level, my words had registered. I loved them both and wanted them to know my heart is heavy with the painful cross they have to bear. But I am certain God is there, with them every step of the way. And will eventually lead them home.

As Michelle and I embraced and I retreated out of the room, I walked with a more sure step than how I had progressed initially down that hallway. I thanked God for giving me the push to come here and to open my heart to them and say what weighed heavy on my mind. I think God knew this walk had to be done by me and my words needed to be said.

As I walked into church this morning, I saw the Vicar, standing on crutches from a broken ankle but the same smile on his face he wore on days when he was on solid on both feet. For a second, the face of Mike popped into my mind and I was struck by how both men seem to be able to laugh and truly enjoy life even when adversity hits them. I went over to him, and asked him this question “When is the right time to say your final words to someone you know is dying?” I thought certainly a godly man would know the precise answer. He didn’t know, he contemplated on it and said he could not relate to the situation I described. He reflected on a situation he had been in where he did get that kind of opportunity but it was quite different than a man, only 30ish with two small children at home that was laying in a hospice curled up in pain and wanting to live yet facing death. I wondered if he met Mike if he would be able to give me a more precise answer. I wonder if Mike’s life affected him? I wanted so badly for others to know this man and be touched by his story. I think, in asking the question, I was really merely trying to tell the story of Mike.

I walked into church, sat down and looked at the beautiful front of the church. I felt the warmth of the Christian community surrounding me. I saw the smile on the faces of all present knowing they were as happy as I to be in God's home. I listened closely as I knew, if I did that, I could sense God’s presence. I knew, in that instant, God was keeping a vigil over Mike Lanius. As I was here in this holy place paying my respects to God, God was watching over Mike 24/7 until the time is right to put him back in the palm of His hand, our Father, and pull Mike up to heaven.

3/05/2009

One More Day


If only for today, I shall take time to truly be grateful for my health. If only for today, I will realize how blessed I am to have the gift of a life free of serious debilitating pain. If only for a moment, I shall reflect on my own personal journey with cancer and remember its devastating effect. If only for one second I will rejoice that so many are being saved from this nasty disease we call cancer.

But then, once that moment is over, at the close of the day, I will think of a dear friend I met in days gone by named Mike Lanius. I continually hear about him through his caring bridge updates. That was the site, www.caringbridge.org; I use to visit frequently to post my own updates on for everyone, the good days, the bad and my interpretation of medical jargon associated with my case. I would run up to the computer, eager to let folks know I had crossed another bridge and was one step closer to the other side…a life free of living in treatment for cancer.

Mike still has a need to update us all. Many days now, he is too sick, too weak or in too much pain to post anything so Michelle, his wonderful soul mate does it for us all. We need reminded of the journey he is on so we continue to pray. For a man such as Mike, we know God has Mike in His vision but we pray anyways so that God hears us recognizing his precious child is in our hearts also.

Mike’s battle with colon cancer is a prime example of the realities of cancer treatment for Stage 4 cancer patients everywhere. This is no cake walk. This disease that will not die, at times, even with poison put into the body. It is unpredictable, as changeable as the weather and as unpredictable as a summer storm that comes up on you, quite by surprise. One minute your tumors respond favorably and the next, you are left hanging by a thread wondering why the cruel twist of fate. Having cancer can be like looking down the barrel of a shot gun and not being sure if someone should put you out of your misery and pull the trigger. It alone will bring you to your knees and question your faith in God.

If only for today, may people be touched by this disease enough to want to show support for finding a cure. If only for a moment, may they think of Mike and think of him as their dear friend they met in treatment and see the warm smile that lights up his face when he talks about his wife and kids. Even only for a second, may they realize how blessed they are. And, if only for a few moments today, may Mike have felt God’s warmth like the sunshine and His strength in his soul to make it one more day.