Dad was diagnosed, and this journey that I didn’t choose began. And though I didn’t choose it, wouldn’t have chosen it, & most parts I wish we hadn’t walked, I do know that the Father prepared every single step of the way & carried us through the entire journey (& He still is). But my heart still breaks over it And He’s the only One that can put it back together again.
After Dad was diagnosed, I made the decision to postpone serving in China so that I could take care of him.
*China still is very much a part of my heart & a part of my future. Just a longer path there than I originally thought. It is still nestled deeply in my heart as a definite calling. Though my heart aches with grief right now, it also has a sort of ache for China too.*
In April, my dad went to NJ for about 6 weeks or so. His doctor in NC at the time was…not very attentive…let’s call it that…
My cousin in NJ is a doctor at a hospital in the Bronx & was able to get him excellent care at her hospital. At that time, Dad was in terrible pain; the worst throughout the whole time. While there, they worked out a pain management plan, as well as some radiation, that helped relieve the worst of the pain. The cancer was in his spine, ribs, hip, & pelvic bone; terribly painful.
In May, while still teaching in GA, I drove to NJ from GA/NC twice (looong story; too long-just know that I was there.). That was the first time I had seen Dad since he had been diagnosed. That was the first time that I realized just how excruciatingly painful this cancer was for Dad. That was the first time (of thousands) that my heart broke into pieces watching & listening to my dad suffer & not being able to do anything physically to bring some relief. I remember just how difficult it was that night because the reality that it was really happening was starting to set in. And I was realizing that this was going to be like nothing I could have imagined or had experienced before. Dad & I were both in the basement, which is like an apartment-style basement. Dad was on one side of the basement where the bed was, & I was on an air mattress on the floor on the other side. That night, listening to the kind of pain that he was in, was such a heart breaking night for me. I cried & prayed silently all night. I don’t think I slept at all (after driving 10 hours…& getting on a plane eaaarly the next morning…then teaching the next morning…aaaaa…)
After that first trip to NJ, I decided to go to North Carolina for the summer to take care of Dad & then make other decisions as needed. I went into it knowing that I may need to stay. So in June, after being there about a month, I made the decision that I wouldn’t be coming back to GA. I returned to GA for about a week in July to pack some things & ‘moved’ to NC for however long Dad needed me. And I do not regret one day of being here, as hard as it’s been. Most days I’ve just wanted to run far, far away & not turn back. But even on those days I didn’t regret being here.
I think about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I am not comparing myself to Jesus-at all! But I am thinking of an illustration & of His example. There was one day in particular when I was doing something for Dad that he really didn’t want me to be doing. His exact words were something about it being humiliating. I told him that it was an honor for me to be serving him in that way. He made another comment about how much fun it must be to be doing this for him. Honestly, it makes me think of that example of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. As He knelt to wash their feet, Peter (at first) protested & said that ‘never shall You wash my feet.’ He didn’t want Jesus doing something that was considered so degrading. Feet, especially then, were dirty & grimy from walking through the streets in sandals or even barefoot. They were considered to be the dirtiest part of the body. It was degrading to wash someone’s feet; something lowly. Certainly not something you’d let your King & Messiah do for you. But Jesus was setting a beautiful example of how we are to love & serve others. He was being a true servant by doing something out of great love; something unexpected & considered too dirty & degrading to do. That, to me, is what made it such a beautiful act of love & service: being willing to serve even when it means doing something considered dirty or humiliating—putting yourself aside for the needs of others.
What a beautiful way for me to be able to serve & honor my dad by taking care of the physical & medical needs that he had that couldn’t do for himself. Like Peter not wanting his Lord to wash his feet, my dad certainly didn’t want his daughter doing these tasks for him. But, isn’t this the example Jesus gave of being a servant? Doing what seems like the ‘lowly’ tasks, out of love & service. This makes the tasks not ‘lowly’ at all, but humbling & honoring. I truly feel that it was such an honor that I was able to serve my dad in the way that I was during this season. I know that he didn’t see it from my perspective, but I love him & wanted to help in this way. It was often heartbreaking, too, that this care was even necessary. But knowing that he needed this care made me not want to be anywhere else. It was an honor to follow the example of my Servant-King & do this for my dad.
I truly have learned so very much about serving during this season of my life, though I know that there is so much more to go.
Oh, & have I mentioned that I also have been caring for my 89 year old grandmother who has dementia? Yes. Dad had been taking care of her for the last 10 years & so taking care of her was…an added opportunity to…serve… At the moment that I’m typing this, I’m still here caring for her (as well as teaching 3rd grade) but will be returning to GA when the school year is over. My aunts (her daughters) will hopefully follow through with taking care of her when I leave. But this blog isn’t about my grandmother’s care. Just thought I’d throw that in there for the sake of keepin it real!
A closing thought from Streams From The Desert
“Stand firmly in the place where your dear Lord has put you, and do your best there…It is through the pounding of a serious conflict that He expects us to grow strong. The tree planted where the fierce winds twist its branches and bend its trunk, often nearly to the point of breaking, is commonly more firmly rooted than a tree growing in a secluded valley where storms never bring any stress or strain. The same is true of human life. The strongest and greatest character is grown through hardship.”