Surviving Cancer: My Brother

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Many of you might remember that last fall I posted that my brother Harold had been diagnosed with Stage Three lung cancer. He underwent chemo and radiation which was, of course, not easy. My brother is twenty-one years older than I am. I am the seventh and final child in my family and interestingly I was born on my parents’ twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. My brother has always been a second father to me. I have depended on him throughout my life; the thought of losing him last year was devastating to me. I begged God not to take him from me.

Today, my brother celebrated his seventy-ninth birthday. For this birthday blessing, I praise God. Each day is a blessing because none of us are promised tomorrow. Each day is God’s gift to us. Cancer makes that fact abundantly clear.

My cousin Libby, pictured between my brother and me, is also a cancer survivor. She had a rare form of uterine cancer when she was twenty-eight years old; she just turned seventy-six in November.  Birthdays are blessings, indeed.

Of course, one day we all leave this earth and go back to God from whence we came. That is inevitable. It is just the cycle of life. This reality should motivate us rather than depress us. In the limited time that we have on this earth, we should be motivated to do good, show compassion, love fully, forgive, and be thankful for the gifts and the life that God has blessed each of us with. It is not easy, of course, to always feel happiness. Sometimes the darkness falls heavily on each us and we dwell in a dank and bottomless abyss from which we fear that we will never escape. But, we will because there is God who loves us and is never far from us. God is with us in our struggles; God is with us when we are down in the abyss. He is with us in the sunlight and in the dark of night.

My mother Gracie Lee died of spinal cancer in 1993 at seventy-two years old and my sister Sara Jo died of brain cancer in 1991 at forty-nine years old. Trust me with I say that those were the darkest days of my life losing my precious mother and my beautifully amazing sister. Cancer is cruel; it is ugly and it is unrelenting in its devastation. I begged God back then to spare my mother and my sister. I blamed God when they died. I told Him that I wasn’t going to speak to Him ever again. Like a good father, God  let me rant and He waited with open arms when I ran back to Him. His love is unfathomable, it knows no boundaries. His love and His forgiveness is all-encompassing.

Today, I sat across the table from brother at his favorite restaurant and watched him enjoy his Chicken Tortilla soup. I remember him when his hair was black and now it is white like snow. I remember when he used to drop me off at my elementary school over fifty years ago, now. Time doesn’t wait for any us. Today, I lingered in the precious moments of this day, my brother’s seventy-ninth birthday, and thought just how blessed we are on this earth to have life, to be able to survive the suffering, to be able to laugh in spite of the pain.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. There will always be that inevitable ending looming in the distance. I choose to let that fact motivate me to celebrate each rising sun as a blessing.

I turn my heart toward God, lift up hands, bow my head and praise Him for this day and for all the days to come. I give Him my fears and my hopes and trust that no matter what is to come He will be with me, that He will lead me and those whom I love Home to that place where there will no longer be any suffering. I believe that one day I will see my family again in that place beyond this plane of existence.

My heart is filled with thankfulness.

 

Copyright 2019, Jenny W. Andrews

 

 

Perspective

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This is the first time in about a month that I have sat down and wrote anything.

About five years ago I moved into my new house and left boxes of my old diaries in the garage. Fear of revisiting the past kept me from looking into those pages written so long ago. Almost forty years of my life is documented in those small diaries.

After I celebrated a milestone birthday, I decided to clear out the clutter and organize my diaries by year and put them in pretty photo boxes I bought at a craft store. I labeled the boxes by years. From being a young adult intoxicated by the promise of love to a middle aged woman disappointed by dreams that disintegrated in mid-air, I feel shocked by the power of love, the profound depth of despair, the soul-crushing weight of  betrayal, the mind-numbing repetition of mistakes, and the power of God’s redemption and grace, that have encompassed my existence on this earth.

Why was I so afraid to revisit that long ago world that I had once inhabited?

Fear that I would be reminded of all those dreams that never came true? Fear that I would be reminded of that one love I walked away from and while doing so I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life? Fear that I would be able to connect the dots in that web of deception that my youth had blinded me to? Fear that in retrospect I would hear the whisper of my own voice and get swallowed up by the sorrow over my own voicelessness?

I have spent the past four weeks reading through my diaries. At times, I have cried; at times, I have laughed. I honestly cannot believe that I was that young once. I honestly cannot  believe that I had been so very trusting. I cannot believe the courage that God granted me in the face of the sorrow; I cannot believe the strength that He fortified me with. In retrospect, this life that God has blessed me with is a miracle; it is a miracle that I am still standing after all the sorrow, hurt, loss, and darkness.

Yes, I have taken my diaries and put them in photo boxes and organized them by year. I plan to work on my memoir this coming week. I plan to get back to my writing. I feel in my heart that God has given me the gift of words. He has shown me that I need to extend compassion to myself. He has shown me that the passage of time is a learning experience. He has shown me that His hand is always upon me no matter how dark the night.

Copyright 2019 Jenny W. Andrews

 

 

 

My Psalm

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My Psalm

God has blessed me with the greatest gifts; butterflies’ orange and gold wings fluttering along yellow rose petals against sun dappled days.

Late afternoons, warm breezes refreshing me, reviving me.

God has blessed me with love, with memories like precious jewels that sparkle and remind me of endless October days that God in His Grace has given me one more day.

Another hour, another chance to see the sun rise, split the orange and lavender sky.

God has remembered me with millions of miracles that my human eyes have been unable to see.

He has filled this frail vessel with breath, blood, passion, and a soul that hungers, yearns, fails, succeeds, doubts, believes.

God has laid his hand upon me, called me out of the multitudes, called me back to Him.

He has loved me,

even when I turned and ran from Him.

He has gathered me to Himself like I am a wounded child.

He has known my sorrows. He has seen my darkest hours and He has shone a candle in the shadows.

He has lifted me up and He has restored me.  He has loved me; he has forgiven me.

He has given me one more day to get it right, to enjoy the sunlight peeking through the trees.

God has loved me; he has been good to  me.

He is my God; God of all eternity.

Copyright 2019 Jenny W. Andrews. All rights reserved