Thursday, June 26, 2014

What matters most

We sat in a common area for visitors to our building and caught up with our friend's news. We hadn't really had a chance to touch base with him in years, just a few dribs and drabs here and there in bits and snatches of conversations we'd had. We thought to ourselves how pleasant, how calm and peaceful he was.

In the background, a chorale was practicing songs from the First and Second World Wars. I recognized, "Over there... over hill, over dale, over there," but instead of them singing, "..the Yanks are coming," they sang, "...the troops are coming." It's Canada, after all.

Our friend was telling us about his latest news.  "They knew it was cancer around the first of May. At first they thought it was mesothelioma," he continued, "which carries a maximum life expectancy of two years. And then they did some more biopsies and discovered that it was leukemia. Stage two." He paused and smiled. "Thank God. Really. I'm grateful it wasn't the one they thought it was."

We shook our heads in disbelief, and asked him if he had started any treatment yet.

"Not yet." He paused, and looked toward the right as if trying to remember something. "They said that the body builds up an immunity to the drug they use quite quickly, so if they use it too soon, it won't be as effective when the time comes to really fight it."

It. The Cancer. 

He was talking about it as a separate entity.

Asked if he would mind if we put him on our prayer chain, he grinned and said, "By all means. I believe in healing. But whether it happens or not, I'm okay with it.  I'm ready.  Everyone dies sometime."

The chorale was still practicing a French Canadian ballad: "Un Canadien errant, bani de ses foyers, parcourait en pleurant des pays étrangers..." (translation: A wandering Canadian, banished from hearth and home, went about singing in foreign lands). The haunting melody echoed in the large room and pierced my heart; it took on new meaning as our friend continued sharing his heart.

"Heaven. It's like retirement - you hear about it when you're young and it doesn't seem real, like a pipe dream or something. But I guess I'll get there before you will." Then he smiled - that slow, real, beautiful smile that always made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.

And then the smile faded. "I'm just sad for my wife, that's all."

He talked about how the cancer had forced him to make a decision to live life, really LIVE it, enjoy each day instead of one day just blending into the next mindlessly. "My wife and I have been really happy these last two years," he told us. "I've learned how to have a real God-centred marriage, something I wish I'd known the first time around. It's made such a difference. I can't believe it sometimes."

"I've been thinking a lot about the old song, 'His Eye is on the Sparrow.' He really is looking after me, and I don't have any dread of what lies ahead." 

"If I passed away tomorrow, I could still say that I've been over-blessed."

Over-blessed. Really. My throat felt tight; my eyes and nose stung. After all he'd been through already. And now this. And he felt over-blessed.

Photo "Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset"
courtesy of noomhh at
He talked frankly about the long medical road ahead, and how he didn't know what lay in store for him in the valley of the shadow. "But surprisingly," he said, "there is absolutely no fear. I'm not afraid at all." 

"It's a long way to Tipperary, it's a long way to home..."

He asked how we were doing, and apologized for talking about himself so much. We said it was okay, that we had wanted to know how he was. We shared some of how life had been for us the last few months, and then (as time was short) we exchanged email addresses for the purpose of setting up another time to meet and connect. 

We stood up, each to go our separate ways. He spoke one final time. "If there's one thing that I want to come out of this whole thing, it's that I want God to be glorified. I want for His Kingdom to be advanced, you know?" 

We nodded, tears in our eyes. 

We know. 

No comments:

Post a Comment