saturday afternoon cancer: a lament

it was 2:00 on a saturday afternoon when the phone call came, which is exactly the moment and day you would not expect such news. but it did. and with it, our entire day, week, month dissolved slowly into the shrill ringing noise of the destruction of our former peace.

we were feeding emma lunch at the time, and i was still holding her small, red plastic spoon between my thumb and forefinger when i watched the blood flow from my wife’s face. when i saw her eyes turn from a look of shock to horror and then, finally, to agony.

someone once said the most devastating news comes at the most unexpected hours. and i think that’s true. it is precisely in the surprise of unexpected devastating news that its devastation explodes exponentially.

“leann… has cancer,” she told me through tears when she had set the phone down on the table, her hands and legs searching in desperation for something to stabilize her.

leann, her sister. her only remaining sister. death took her youngest sister at the age of 19.

leann, mother of two young, beautiful girls who could not be more different, both under the age of three.

leann, 25. now staring death in the face. so close she can feel its breath.

has cancer. the news no one wants to hear. in fact, the news that means, for many of us, our greatest fear.

has cancer. as though she possessed it, rather than the other way around.

and all i could think in that moment—so, too, my wife—was why? why, God? why this? why now?

three and a half years, and our heart still aches for the loss of hayley. and yet, in these few brief years, we have only just begun to get our feet back under us, even as we struggle against the forceful tide of time that refuses to allow us to go back, to see her again, to hold her again, even if only for one brief, final moment.

and now this. why, God? are You not good? are You not merciful? Your Word tells us You are, but on this saturday afternoon, at 2:00, all signs appear to suggest otherwise.

prayer. what does it look like, in moments such as these? we are supposed to go to You? we are supposed to trust You?

but we’ve done that before. we’ve laid our hearts in Your hands before, and they were crushed, like grapes.

prayer. what are we supposed to say? because the truth is, God, that You have not been very good to us lately. our hearts hurt. and we do not know if we are yet ready to trust again.

and yet, somewhere, in the confusing, silent, upside-down mess of it all, words appear. not from us, God knows, but from somewhere.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

silence. and then, the words begin again.

“You have the words of eternal life.”

and in that moment, which is this moment, they are perhaps the only words for us.

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8 thoughts on “saturday afternoon cancer: a lament

  1. No words…I am praying for Leann’s healing and lifting up your family as well. I will also ask my church staff and close friends to pray.

    • thanks so much, annie. we sincerely appreciate you lifting this up on our behalf, and asking your church and friends to do the same.

    • thank you so much, gerald, for your words and for your prayers. we lean heavily into them both. i hope you and yours are well, and i also hope it’s not long before we catch up again.

    • thank you very much for your condolences, katrina, as well as for your prayers. they are very much appreciated. i will be sure to pass them along to jen.

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