I’m not one to hem and haw. I believe the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Directness is how I prefer to communicate. I don’t like to be misunderstood so I always try to be very clear and concise. “Speak the truth in love” is my motto. But how does one directly and precisely tell an 8 & 10 year old that their dad has cancer?
Adulting is hard. Can’t someone else do it today?
I prayed and sought the Lord for wisdom on how to handle it. I read blogs and articles from all sorts of cancer societies, I even consulted our oncologist, Dr. Lukas, but somehow the words got stuck in my throat. The looks on their faces were doing me in. They knew something was coming, and that it wasn’t good news. As much as I had rehearsed it in my mind and tried to spin it in as positive a light as possible, when Abbie whispered, “I’m scared” to Jayden I knew the “rip the bandaid off slowly” method I’d chosen wasn’t going so well.
Corey actually had to come to my rescue and say the word. “Daddy has some ugly stuff growing in his body called Multiple Myeloma, which is a form of cancer…”
“I think I’m going to throw up.” Abbie said as she buried her face in her hands. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face, how scared she looked.
Jayden blinked several times, trying hard to swallow the tears, looking at his hands and not saying a word.
Neither of their reactions surprised me, and both broke my heart.
Nothing in the world can prepare you to answer the question, “Is Daddy going to die?” when you don’t know the answer yourself. We both tried to alleviate their fears by telling them all the things you always tell a child in these kinds of situations: “No one is guaranteed any number of days.” “The doctors are going to do everything they can to help Daddy.” “We trust Jesus completely and believe for Daddy’s healing, and will pray for that every single day.”
But the truth is, we don’t know. Uncle Brian got sick and died. Uncle Eddie died in a car accident clear across the world in Uganda. We’re not guaranteed that just because we pray, “Jesus, help my daddy not to die” means that our prayers will be answered that way.
Incase you’re wondering, this is where the rubber meets the road where your faith is concerned.
We answered every one of their questions as honestly as we could. We told them it was OK to be afraid, that we were afraid too. That it was OK to be upset, that we were upset too. That it was OK to be sad, that we were sad too. And then we showed them in the Word of God what our Father says about…
FEAR: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned… for I AM the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3
ANXIETY: “Cast all your anxiety on the Lord and He will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
SADNESS: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
The Lord never once promises to deliver us from every uncomfortable situation we’ll ever face. But boy, there are countless promises about how He’ll take us through them. And that makes my job as a parent confronting the unthinkable with my favorite little people in all the world a whole lot easier.
After we answered their questions and quieted their fears as best we could, we took communion together as a family, reminding them that Jesus suffered too, and that His suffering meant that no matter how this journey ends we can rest assured that we will have all of eternity with Him – and each other. After communion, we anointed Corey with oil and prayed over him. I had Abbie pray first, and, seeing no need to mince words, her prayer went exactly like this: “Dear God, please heal my Daddy and help him not to die,” which we all got a much-needed chuckle out of. Jayden prayed next and I followed, then Corey prayed over us as a family. I gave each of them a journal with a scripture written on the inside so they can write about what they’re feeling in the days and weeks to come, and let them know they are loved and supported and there are so many people praying for them, for us all, and they can talk anytime they want about anything they want with any of us. I even told them how I’d met with their teachers and school counselor on Friday morning, so they were prepared and could talk to them when they got back to school on Monday.
It was painful and there were tears, but because “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul,” we know we can stand “firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).
We had lots of snuggles and even ended with a big slumber party in our room. I don’t know how many times Abbie looked to me for reassurance that night, “…but Daddy’s not going to die, right?” I did the very best I could, but I cannot promise her that. I can only tell her that wherever this road leads us, we will trust the Lord to take care of us and give us what we need, as we need it. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10
It feels more real now that they know. And this week we’ll start sharing it with the people in our workplaces and lives because with chemo starting next week we’ll likely need help here and there from our friends and family. I am so. very. grateful. for the people the Lord has placed in our lives. I have no idea how people face this without Him, and without a strong community around them. Ironically (not really), I was invited to speak to our moms group at church a few weeks ago, just one week before Corey’s diagnosis, and I spoke (out of Nehemiah chapter 4) about how we were not created to do life alone. About how it takes courage to sound the trumpet when we need help and it how also takes courage to run to the aid of others when they do sound the trumpet.
So perk your ears up out there, friends. As much as I like being on the “running to the aid of others” side of the equation, I feel some trumpet blasts coming as we head down this road…