Thursday, October 23, 2008

Watching the Angel Trumpets bloom

“For only we who believe can enter His rest” - Hebrew 4:3

The yellow angel trumpets are blooming in our backyard. I originally had dotted them all along the entire picket fence in our back yard but they started growing and expanding their trunks and branches too close to the fence. So I hired someone to come cut them all down. But he left one solitary tree amongst the line of stumps.

The blooms are about a foot long and there are about 25 hanging from the branches in golden, glorious splendor. It’s as if they are calling out a solitary message to us as we gaze out the window, “We’re still here!” I love how Johnny can see them from his makeshift bed we converted the couch into, next to the bay window in our living room, looking into the backyard.

Those flowers are truly a reminder of God’s astounding glory. It also helps us to remember that angels are watching over us, as one day flows into another in this seeming “time warp” we live in now. Each day is another notch in our belts of time that we thank God for – because we are still here.

Hurricane force winds have blown through our emotions the last several weeks. After the last chemo Johnny had a new development of pain that worried us. We had been rocking along pretty steady with our routine. Johnny’s days consist of quiet times in the living room, back and forth between the recliner and the couchbed. He watches TV or I read to him or he naps on and off all day. Sometimes he strolls out on the back deck.

Occasionally he will ride off in the truck for a few hours just to get away for getting away’s sake. But that doesn’t happen too often. Every move made away from the quiet routine at the house is a tremendous effort for him. Even the visits to Mayo for blood tests or appointments will wear him out. He is always glad to get back to the house.

So when the new pain manifested last week it rocked our world. I lay in the bed one night and listened to him for a couple hours in the middle of the night. He groaned every time he moved. He couldn’t cough easily. Deep breaths hurt him. I lay awake with eyes wide open. Suddenly the reality of the severity of this journey set in and it frightened me.

I felt a glimpse of the true possibility of actually sleeping without him. I laid there and prayed for God to give me the strength to hold on to hope that everything was all right. I prayed for the strength to be strong when Johnny was so weak. I realized how very much he has always taken care of me. Now it was time for me to take care of him. It was an overwhelming feeling to suddenly realize that what I was about to undertake was a load of love that Johnny had carried for 33 years.

The next morning I called Mayo Clinic to report the new developments. They told us to get him to Mayo’s emergency room as soon as possible because they wanted to make sure it wasn’t a pulmonary embolism. Five hours later, after heart monitors, blood tests, x-rays, oxygen, and a CAT scan, we received the good report that they could find nothing – most especially – a pulmonary embolism. Whew! Praise the Lord!

It was a traumatic day that left us exhausted. On our follow up visit to the oncologist’s office we were told that the new pain is called “referral pain” that manifests in various parts of the body due to tumor growth. They prescribed stronger pain killer to keep Johnny comfortable.

The blood test we did last Friday showed low blood counts so we had to be back at Mayo this past Monday. Then his platelets clumped so we had to go back Tuesday for a re-take. Johnny is starting to feel like a pin cushion. His veins are getting rubbery. His patience is getting thinner. So was mine. I realized that all those years I spent working in a nursing home and dealing with and counseling caregivers – I really had no idea what a monumental journey it was for them. I do now.

Johnny has been on his own roller coaster of emotions as he tries to walk towards healing, though the opposite possibility looms in the distance. He struggles as he juggles being a patient and still trying with all his strength to be my protector. A few days ago the swirling winds of emotion came to a crescendo but led to “the talk” we’ve been needing to have.

I told Johnny that we are praying and believing for his healing and a victory over death but the whole point of living that God tries to convey to us is TO LIVE EVERY MOMENT AS IF IT WERE THE LAST. I reassured him that he had done his job well of being a good husband and father and provider.

Now it was time to focus on the important things at the moment. It was time to savor love, to do the things he always wanted to, to appreciate the true gifts he was blessed with, to say all the things you have been wanting to say, to reconnect with all the people you have cherished. It was time TO LIVE while he was alive.

An important lesson I found during my own journey through cancer was that sometimes God stops us in our tracks so we will listen and hear this important message. LIVE! LOVE! LAUGH AND BE HAPPY! Isn’t that what life is all about?

I heard a local church is doing a series on that very idea. I think it is wonderful. I hope that each of you will stop and take stock of your own lives. Don’t wait for a left hook in life to “get it.” Take charge now and live the life God intended for you.

Find your purpose (which is not only to pay bills.) Mend your fences. Go find God and WORK at the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Stop running and start strolling. You’ll see a lot of sights you’ve been missing.

I wish for each of you the exhilaration of truly appreciating every breath – every moment.

Beautiful Blessings,



Scarlett Lillian said...

More tears. :-/

Elizabeth Bowdren Photography said...

I'm with Scarlett on the tears!!!!! Thank you for being so forthcoming in this journey.... and for always being so humble and inspirational to praise AGod through every storm. It IS incredibly inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Bless you each as you deal with this tough time! You are always in my prayers! I pray the weekend was good for you all!

Much love!
Annie- Nashville