One of the things which stresses me out the most is the inability to articulate what’s happening inside of me. So tonight — on the eve of my wife’s cancer surgery — I’m going to try to sort that out… And share it with you.
My kids didn’t want to go to bed tonight. Which is completely understandable — We are leaving before they wake up in the morning to head to the hospital so a doctor can slice into their mother’s neck. But as they looked for more and more excuses to not be in their beds, all I wanted to do was run to the store to buy some toilet paper. And deodorant. And some toothpaste. And maybe some yogurt and Eggo Blueberry Waffles… Partially because we needed those things, but also because that is something I can control. I didn’t want to leave her alone with those hyped-up weirdos the night before she goes under the knife, so I just wanted them to go to bed so I could leave.
As I walked around the aisles, I kept getting messages from people who were telling me they were thinking of us. And praying for us. And sending us good vibes. And asking how they can help. And just being the sweetest human beings on the planet. And being our friends. And the next thing you know, I’m looking for a non-populated aisle where I can cry without making the rest of the dip shits at the Walmart feel uncomfortable. I picked the “ethnic food” aisle, but there were still quite a few people around. A man walking past me pointed at me and said the word “Niñita.” Which I assume means “manly.”
I stood there for a bit, next to the colorful bags of Takis, and tried to figure out what I was feeling. I guess I’m nervous? That’s part of it. There have been multiple people asking if she has a Living Will. Neither of us do. She asked the nurse what it is, and she explained that it basically details who makes decisions if something goes wrong, she’s hooked up to a machine, and someone has to decide when to “pull the plug.” Except that the woman doing our pre-surgery check in referred to it as “turning you off.” I explained that I am “usually only responsible for turning her on.” Anyway, now people are staring at the man walking around in Walmart, voice-to-texting into his phone about “turning her on,” crying in a super manly way… So that’s where I am.
I’m in an IN-BETWEEN PLACE. I’m not at peace. I’m somewhere between being feeling thankful for everyone’s prayers, and feeling a compulsion to want to explain to people the How and Why behind my belief that God is not in control of this. I am at the same time relieved to be free of the God who gives us cancer for a reason, and nostalgic for the time when I believed that if I said the right prayer or believed hard enough, God would work some sort of miracle. I want to hug the people who care enough to tell me that they are “sending good vibes my way,“ and I also want to scream that their “vibes“are every bit as superstitious as the prayers to the old God who sends a drought to punish people for being bad… “The God who can, but doesn’t.” I am equal parts feeling sorry for myself for being poor enough that this toilet paper is so expensive it makes me think about our cell phone bill, but also feeling blessed beyond my wildest imagination. I am angry that the person I love the most in the world is going through something like this, and at the same time so infinitely fortunate to have a woman like this to love. And to love me back.
I’m a big bald of emotions right now. If you know anything about The Enneagram, you should know that I am an Enneagram 4… The “Individualist.” I feel ALL THE THINGS, and I feel them deeper than you. In fact, I might be the ONLY person to feel things this way. Ever.
I asked Lillian what needed to happen tonight, and she started talking about needing to finish a “few more things” for the program for the play that our oldest daughter is working on. And I was like, “I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE FUCKING PROGRAM FOR THE PLAY… I’M TALKING ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE WE LEAVE FOR YOUR SURGERY IN THE MORNING!” But this is who she is… If you don’t know anything about my wife, that is a small part: She loves helping out, and she enjoys being needed. She still needs to pack, and she has to do some pre-surgery body wash thing, but she’s focused on helping out with our kids’ middle school. Because she’s awesome. Or maybe she TOO just wants something she can control. Probably both.
I’m uncertain. And that’s okay. “Uncertain” is a scary place to be. I think this is why many people find comfort believing that God knows what’s going to happen… Because at least SOMEONE knows how things are going to go. But I don’t. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. I am HOPEFUL… And within the definition of hopefulness is uncertainty. One thing’s for sure, though… Well, actually TWO things are for sure: The first is that I’m having trouble catching my breath. And the second is this: Even though I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow… Even though I am scared and stressed and uncertain… Even walking the lonely aisles of this depressing place, I’m sure of this: We are surrounded by love.
And maybe that’s enough…
Thank you for reading. If you’ve given up on praying for miracles, I feel you. If you’re now a “good vibes” sort of person, send them our way if you’d like. If you’re a “praying for a miracle” type of person, feel free to pray for us. I happen to be a person who believes that God isn’t somewhere else, waiting to be cajoled into “showing up.” God is here. God is everywhere people are awake enough to open their eyes to see. And I am hopeful. If you want to read more about prayer, you can read THIS (skeptical), and also THIS (embracing the mystery). If you’d like you can LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK, or you can FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER. Or you can SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG by entering your eMail near the top of this page. Either way, THANK YOU!
How about, “We’re all thinking of you and your wife, and hoping for a good outcome and easy recovery?”
My thoughts and prayers are with you. Stay strong.
A couple of years ago I faced a difficult diagnosis. For some reason I had trouble asking God for healing. I know it’s not a zero sum game but I felt others needed healing more than I did, someone like your wife. After all, I’m in my 70’s. What I did find was that when I asked for the strength to get through whatever was to come God didn’t just flip some internal strength switch. He put people in my life to share the anxiety and walk beside me. My prayer is that you have physical healing and emotional support.
Praying to the God that is right there with you to keep reminding you that you are surrounded by love during this time of uncertainty, and hoping with you for a good outcome.
I just cried at my computer….
I hope your wife is doing well by the time you read this and that recovery goes quickly and easily. Hang in there–I’ve been through a lot (LOT) of medical procedures with people especially close to me, and though it is never easy to be the person who “stands with,” I’ve always KNOWN that God is in the that room with us (through good and bad). Love IS around you.
I don’t quite understand what you mean about God not being in control….but I send prayers for your wife’s surgery to go well, for the doctors and nurses to be competent, for her recuperation to be fast and her pain level tolerable. Also sending positive vibes for peace for you all….take care…
Bless you both. I fully understand your feelings – I too am finding myself crying in totally inappropriate places – I’m watching my husband of 49 years struggle with a heart that is wearing out far too soon, taking serious medication 24/7 (infusion pump so we can be at home), having trouble walking across the room, sleeping in fits and starts. It’s hard. I believe in a God Who loves us beyond anything that we can possibly understand in our human minds and emotions. I am grateful for the prayers of friends and family and for the ways in which they express their love for us. I am also scared and sad.
I do pray that the surgery has gone well, that your wife is able to make a full recovery, that is will be decades before you will again need to think about a living will. And I’m believing that God has you in God’s heart far more than any of us can imagine – and that is a wonderful hope.
I am hoping and praying for a successful surgery and the best possible recovery and a perfect outcome! Love to the whole family!
As a 62-year-old atheist (NOT an anti-theist), who spent from age 25 to age 44 as a bible-literalistic, “born-again” Christian (the last nine of those years as a Christian apologist), I’ve spent equal time standing on each side of that chasm between “I believe Iesus is in control” and “I do not find adequate evidence of any god being in control of anything nor even existing”.
In my last eighteen years since acknowledging “belief in god = wishful thinking”, I’ve faced serious and sometimes devastating personal, marital, familial, medical, and financial issues. So, I feel for you. With tragedies such as yours, it’s easy to realize why most people need a belief in “an omnipotent, omniscient, omniprescient, infallible, just, loving FatherGod who is sovereign and has a purpose for everything, including earthly suffering and death, and who will provide you the grace to endure and flourish in every trail and tribulation”.
Let us know how this plays out. *HUGS*