Chapter Twenty-Three

I find it amazing as I look back and reflect upon the “happenings” of my life... of our lives. So many stories, so many miles, so much I wish to leave my children in the form of wisdom, yet knowing full well that wisdom comes from living life, from making mistakes, and then from getting up, dusting yourself off, and simply getting on with life.

That is what gives us the “stories” of our lives. It makes us unique and a one-of-a-kind masterpiece formed by the Master.

In 2013, Husband was having a bad run of it with his health. When he had an appointment with the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, that meant that I would take a day off work to accompany him to his appointment. The trip was 125 miles one way and took one hour and 51 minutes of travel, which ends up being four hours of travel round trip. It seemed his health was declining. We discussed moving to Tucson where it would be closer for him to receive his health care. He was receiving disability benefits for his Agent Orange exposure and subsequent heart condition. A short time later, he was approved for more disability due to his late stage on-set asthma.

The agency I worked for allowed staff to apply for “hardship transfers” so I read the policy and made application for such and attached all the medical documentation to substantiate the claim. I submitted it through the “chain of command”. This meant that my supervisor and the facility administrator needed to sign off on it and then forward it to Phoenix for approval. By day’s end it was returned and approved. My supervisor brought it in to me and said, “In all the time I’ve worked here, I’ve never seen one of these approved this fast.”

Following the policy guidelines to the letter helped, I’m sure, but more importantly, I believe this was an affirmation from God that this was what we were to be doing.

We had a humongous Yard Sale, sold most everything we were offering up and donated the rest. Our home had sold in very short order. Everything happened so fast it seems a blur to me now. But on July 1st of 2013, we set up housekeeping in Tucson Arizona. That was four years ago, now!

I retired from my position shortly thereafter and accepted a part-time position at the church we were attending. The first weekend in October of 2013, I was overcome with pain and spent the weekend in the hospital where I had been diagnosed with kidney stones. Yes, they are as painful as everyone says!

From there it has been a continuing saga with health issues between both Husband and me. Kidney stones, cardio issues, COPD and lung cancer for me. Husband’s issues in addition to his Agent Orange exposure health issues have been blood pressure issues, a hernia repair coupled with an inflamed gall bladder (now removed) and his most recent – diverticulitis and diabetes.

Bette Davis is quoted as having said, “Old age ain't no place for sissies.” I agree with this quote. There is more that I agree with. For example, I wish I had taken better care of myself; that I had lived a simpler life-style and lived with less; that I’d never have put that first cigarette to my lips (and subsequently my lungs); that I had embraced exercise much earlier (and stuck with it); and finally, that I would have sought a relationship with the Lord much sooner in my life.

I believe the most debilitating illness of all has been the depression that has accompanied the second bout of lung cancer. Yet, I find solace in the Word of God. I read the Psalms of David where he laments over his depression, and then Elijah who was successful in his endeavors until threatened by Jezebel, then he ran and hid, not unlike a small child who is afraid.

Isaiah 21:3 from The Voice

My stomach sinks. My gut churns with pain.
As a woman in labor wrenches and writhes,
I can hardly bear the news.
I cannot hear because I’m bent over with agony.
I cannot see because I’m deep in the fog of depression.

No matter the outcome of my health issues, still I will proclaim, “Though he slays me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15a).

Tears are words from the heart which cannot be spoken… They can be the expression of sorrow, of joy, of love, and yes, of pain. They often seem to be baptismal. For different faiths, baptism may mean different things and yet we can all readily accept that it is a Christian sacrament of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water.

One of my favorite Psalms is 56:8 which reads in part,
“Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?”

To imagine the God of all creation being so concerned with my tears that they are collected in a bottle and the account of the tears written in His book! What a comforting mental picture this is!

In Victorian times, people used lovely, ornate bottles to gather tears. Funeral establishments sometimes provided them. It is said that once the tears had evaporated from the bottle, the time for mourning was complete. I’ve copied Psalm 56:8 from the Message below – I love the almost poetic way it reads.

Psalm 56:8 from The Message

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.

Aren’t these beautiful examples of Victorian Tear Bottles? I wonder if they were buried with them, thus allowing God to pour out their tears when they arrive and are in His presence.

I believe the deep, dark secret of this depression has been more than merely the health issues. There have been other, pressed upon my heart issues. I’ve been reluctant to discuss or write about our son. I didn’t want to appear to be “less of a Christian mother,” who raised a not so successful child. Honestly, we all know and are aware of how we Christian’s can condemn others and be very judgmental. I’ve even sat in prayer meetings where it had become a gossip fest rather than a time of honest and open prayer before the throne of God. And I’ve even been known to excuse myself from prayer meetings when it goes that far downhill.

First, let me say that my daughter holds my heart. She was the child of my youth – my trial and error baby. I was only eighteen when she was born. I was learning how to be a mom while she was learning to walk, to talk, and sing. She is a successful woman who works in the insurance industry. She is quite competent and very qualified to do the job she does. She is also ten years older than her brother. Sadly, she also lives 2,000 miles away.

Our son has had issues since adolescence. We took him to a psychologist when things got so out of hand. This person, this psychologist turned to me and said, “Take him home! I can’t do anything with him at this age. You should have brought him here as a child!” I was devastated. He had no “issues” as a child. So, here we are today. He is now incarcerated again – for the third time. He is serving a six-year sentence for “prohibited possession of firearms.” His two other sentences were each for 2.5 years. Now with this six-year sentence, it will be a total of 11-years behind bars. He also leaves in his wake three young children. No, he’s never been married and the children all have different mothers. We have never seen or met the youngest child and her mother. I was vehemently told by my son that we would NEVER see her, along with other colorful metaphors, as we declined to help with bail money. He also absconded and didn’t report for court, so all the bail money was forfeited.

Husband and I have beat ourselves up thinking our son’s actions have had something to do with the way we raised him. I am done with that. There comes a point when you have stop second guessing and let the adult BE the adult and suffer the consequences of not obeying the law. We love him, but we can no longer have him in our home or let him come here to live. We will not put funds on his account nor visit him.

I love my son, but there are times he scares me, seriously - he frightens me. He has a raging, seething anger. He loves guns and other weapons. Something an ex-offender is prohibited from having. But that doesn’t stop him.

Having worked in the prison system for 19-years, I am aware of what can happen on the “inside.” The good, the bad, and indeed, the ugly.

He says he is an atheist and believes our faith is based upon a lie and that all religion is hypocrisy. I believe the church is for the hypocrite what a hospital is for the sick – a place of hope and healing.

We pray for our son constantly. I believe that prayer will be answered. Perhaps not the way I imagine, perhaps not even in my life time.

Our son is 37. He will be at least 42 upon his release. There is the distinct possibility that either his father or I will have passed on by that time.

Sometimes…sometimes you must let them go, for your sake as well as theirs. At some point, you realize that some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life. Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is like hugging a cactus. The tighter you hold on, the more it hurts.

So, this is my dirty, little secret. I’m sure it added to the depth of the depression I was consumed with. Seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed medication and then regular visits to a psychologist have helped me to emerge from my “dark night of the soul.”

And yet the blessings prevail, only my sight becomes dim to recognizing them. Even when my only praise is a broken hallelujah. Still, I will worship You and offer up my broken praise. I will raise my hands heavenward to receive your healing touch. Yes, yes… open my dimmed eyes to You and how You are working through the hard and hurtful parts life.

I choose to praise You, Lord. Even though my heart breaks… For my son and his poor choices… Did the mother of Iscariot feel a similar pain? Should my love be active or more passive? My prayer is for his safety and for him to come face-to-face with the living God. I will continue to love. I will continue to pray.

One of the ways I have coped with my son’s actions is to become involved in a prison ministry – Kairos Outside. This is a weekend retreat for women whose lives have been impacted by prison. Either someone they love has been imprisoned or they, themselves have been incarcerated. The entire weekend is a display of Christian love and one of our main themes is “Listen, Listen – Love, Love.”

I have been able to participate as a speaker for two of the retreats. One talk was on anger (gosh, that was a God-thing!) and the other was about “when they come home.” This year, I was asked to participate again, but after a second thought, I declined due to the overpowering depression.

I also know that I am in good company, so to speak. The sons of the prophet Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, behaved wickedly, for example by taking for themselves all the prime cuts of meat from sacrifices, and by committing adultery with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance. Eli is aware of their behavior but he rebukes them too lightly and is unable to stop their inappropriate behaviors. The sons die and so does Eli.

This is all for this installment of “Love in the Time of Chemo.” I will have a CT scan and see the oncologist early on in November. I am praying for a good outcome.


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