Friday, July 29, 2011

While There is a Today

It's been a week worth writing about. 
A while ago, I made friends with a leukemia patient who used to be in the Marines. We talked about God, and he said he didn't want to turn God away, that it was better to be nice to God instead of bashing Him. That night, I thought about asking him, "What if God wants you to run to Him instead of just not running from Him?" I asked God for the strength to ask him, but he was gone the next day. Then I asked God to tell him Himself or make him come back. 
That was a long time ago. On Saturday, I walked into a room to fix the beeping pump, and there he was! I had time that day to hang out with him and his wife a little bit. I told him I pray for him, and that opened up a whole can of worms. I told him I had been thinking about him since the last visit - wanting to get him thinking, somehow, about being active about knowing God. Then he sure told me. He told me that God had given him two visions since our last meeting. Once, he saw great hands come down around him and cradle him. They picked him up gently off the bed and then floated him back down again. Then a voice said, "I am taking care of you." He said, "Okay. Thank You." Later, he heard God tell him, "I am going to give you a miracle." He said, "Okay, thank You." Two days later, his doctor told him that his bone marrow biopsy showed no cancer: "It's a miracle!" He said, "I know. God told me I would get one." And we were happy together.
That was Saturday. On Sunday, the nice man from church who says I am a mystic told me to write a love letter to God. He wanted to read it. He wants to love God more, and he thought maybe reading something I wrote to Him would help. On Monday, I wrote. 
I'll tell you the truth: spending time facing God with everything you are is a hard thing. It's pure honesty and nakedness. There is pain in loving God sometimes. To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to miss Him terribly. There is a way to see life through this dark glass, and it's a sad way to live. I lived life that way for a while, and then I asked God for help - that He would send me a friend to be consolation for not being able to be with Him, to help me wait for Him. I married that friend. I told God all about that in my letter. I told Him other things, too. Mostly I'm sorry. and thank you. and I love you.
It took me a couple of days to recover, actually. Life has been deeper this week. Time doesn't mean so much and it means more all at the same time.  
That was Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I cared for particularly special patients, very very sick patients, patients near death. Ms T has been a favorite of mine all through her journey. Mr H was new to me. He was very sick, and his family had to make a lot of decisions yesterday about how he will die. Mr H's wife prayed all day on Wednesday. She and her family have loved God for a very long time. Another patient went from us to the ICU and was reportedly doing poorly. She is young with a horrible blood disease. She has spent a lot of time on our floor. I was told weeks ago that she would live a painful, short life and die a painful death.
That was Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, I went to visit them. I have never done that before - visiting patients on my day off, but these ones were special, and I couldn't stay away. I wanted to help Mrs H, somehow, to get to the point where she could let him go - to recognize what a blessing she would be giving him to let him go see God. After visiting her, I found out that she had gotten to that place overnight. She walks closely with Jesus. 
A long time ago, Ms T came to have plastic ureters placed into her kidneys in place of her real ones - nephrostomies, they are called. Cancer and treatment made her ureters dysfunctional. She was quite well then, comparatively. Since then, she has had multiple admissions for chemotherapy, pancytopenia, neutropenic fever, confusion. Ms T's family calls me "The A Team" and say I tell it like it is. They like that, so I am one of their favorites. She and her family are special to me. I just couldn't really stay away after hearing she had a trip to the ICU and now was back on our floor to die. 
When I saw her, I would never have known that she was any sicker. She was chipper and lucid and talkative. I asked her if she was ready. She said she wasn't, because she wanted to do so much more for other people. She talked about helping her nieces and nephews find the right paths for their lives, things they could pour themselves into and have purpose for life. She wanted to be around to help them with her resources, with her time, with her life. It is a beautiful thing when your last wish is not for you, but for those you love. We talked about thanking God for each day as a gift, doing today, the things you want to do before you die. You may not have tomorrow. I encouraged her to write letters to her nieces and nephews expressing her love and hopes while there is a today. 
That was Thursday. Today is Friday. I got a message that Ms T died this morning. There isn't today for her. Not like us, anyway. I can't wait to go to heaven. It's going to be so nice to see Jesus' face and to understand. I get heartbroken that I'm not there yet. But each day here is a gift, and He tells us that our life is short. Sometimes we hang onto that like our life-breath. Other times, it makes us sad, like right now, because Ms T and her family won't be coming to see us anymore. 
It all reminds me about this friend I have. She had cancer when she was a kid. She got a lot of chemo/radiation to her torso, so her heart and lungs are weak and show signs of being old with heart disease, lung problems, etc. even though she is in her twenties. When patients tell her, "Don't get old." She tells them, "Actually, that's my one goal in life."  I admire her, because she lives her life like everyday is a gift. I went hang gliding with her. She's been all over the world. She's gone skydiving (and likes hang gliding better). She lives her life connected to God, because there's a fact of life that's more real to her than it is to some of us. At any given moment, we could be a few more moments away from meeting our Maker. 
I just wanted to share these things with you to help you with perspective. I have a gift because of the things I see at my job to see life a little bit differently. I see life as something very close to death, not far removed from it. I see today as something transient, and I hope you can go there with me a little bit. I hope you can think: "Thank You God, for Your gift." I hope you can do and say the things you need to while there is a today. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

It is a great thing to be counted with God's own, to be part of something that's wholly bigger than I am. "He will do even greater things than these," He said; and I am counted with those about whom He said that. It's big, and it's good.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I heard someone say once - I don't remember who - that when we get to heaven, we're going to be more us than we've ever been. It means that we won't all be the same drones crying out the same tones. We're going to be even more diverse than we are now.

And can't you think with me about the beauty of every human in God's creation displaying a different facet of His glory? I'll tell you: it makes you matter as a person. No one can display that facet of Him better than you.

I am thinking about this now, because on Sunday, we are going to have a full band. Drums, bass, electric, acoustic, keys, vocals. I say in faith that there are several styles that are going to converge in unity. I have been praying about it, and I know unity is on His mind. We can't go wrong.

Oh God, let not one of us be so arrogant as to think that our vision of the music is the only right vision. As we offer up our song to You, let our breath invoke the breath of creation to magnify You in our own hearts, and in every heart that hears.

All I'm really asking is that everything we sing or play stirs up the Spirit of God to do His big work. It's not so much to ask, is it? He says it's all possible with Him.

God, come and get us as You do.

isolation and emotion

Some things help you relate with others. Some things make you feel far away from others. I think some of our deepest things make us feel far away from people, because we can't talk about them. It's not appropriate, or it leaves us too vulnerable, or it's just not quite like anyone we have access to.

One such question is on my mind tonight. How do you deal with the thought that you may have caused it? And by "it", I mean the death of another human being. You know somewhere in your head you didn't cause it. You know it was AML. But it doesn't stop the picture in your head. It stays with you.

I can't even say there's no denying it, because everyday, you walk around fine. You really are fine. But then, there are these flashes of what happened that day - the scene that summarizes the whole memory. It's PTSD, and we all have it. It must be the degree that diagnoses us. For me, it's seeing him lying on the bed all haphazard, lying on the bed not breathing. It's weird how you can be in two places at once. I can be in my car driving home, but then I'm not in my car, and then I am again.

I told the story once before. It's nice that someone can read it, and then forget they ever read it. But it's not like that about this. You forget, but something in you doesn't ever forget, and it pops up with no announcement. It's not everyday. But it's enough to make me ask the question.

Yesterday, I was thinking more about how our jobs isolate us from each other. I had a friend over, and I kept wanting to ask her about her job, but I couldn't think of anything to ask. "So, how's your desk been decorated lately?" No, bad question. "So, have you found some great new outfits to wear to work?" No. "Is your copy machine at work cool?" That one's really dumb. The truth is, I have no idea what interesting things there could be to talk about. So then I think about talking about my job. What I really want to talk about is some awesome pathophys or how human we are in life and sickness and death. But I know I should tone it down. I really try sometimes.  Like one time, somebody asked me about the grossest thing I ever saw. So I started telling some funny poop stories, and everybody was laughing. But then, I remembered a far grosser story about bile, and it might as well have hit the fan right there in that room, because it was all over.

Then again, our differences don't have to isolate us all of the time. Sometimes they make us better. I live with someone who is different from me, but when I talk about the things I experience that he doesn't, he helps me. I'm pretty eccentric in my emotional life. At least I think so until I talk to other women candidly. Just like everything else, it's all relative - and in this case, it's usually relative to our significant men. I live with someone who is a sort of emotional oak tree - slow to change and strong. I'm more like those flowers that come and go with the sun. I don't think our emotional temperament is something we can totally control, but we do have choices about our behaviors. I have a strong motivation to let my behaviors be governed by the truth of life in spite of what I am feeling. Sometimes Thomas helps me by reminding me about the truth of life when I can't feel it.

For now, I'm done trying to make myself feel less. I don't need to control my emotions. I just don't want them controlling me, and that's the real kicker. I want to teach my daughters someday. I want to say, "Dear one, I know you are feeling a lot," and I'll tell you: I really know, "but dear one, our emotions do not control us. We feel them, but they do not control us." It's truly something to be learned.