I’ve started back to work. I promised you that I’d tell you once it was officially announced, and it was official last weekend. I’m working part-time as a pastor at my home church, the Portage Free Methodist Church. I’m happy, and scared and excited all at the same time. I suppose this is normal for a mom returning to work, but then adding the cancer journey makes me entirely more fearful. Questions of “can I do this” race through my head at every turn. But I am trying desperately to take it one day at a time and trying not to get overwhelmed.
I started reading a book recently called “A Grace Disguised,” by Jerry Sittser. To give you some background, Jerry’s family was in a car accident and subsequently his wife, daughter and mother were all killed in the accident. It’s his account of loss and grief and raising his three children alone. I’m only in chapter five but his words so far have been incredibly therapeutic for me. Here’s an excerpt that pulled me in when I read it last night:
“After three years, I continue to live in that tension. But there is a significant difference now. The sorrow I feel has not disappeared, but it has been integrated into my life as a painful part of a healthy whole. Initially, my loss was so overwhelming to me that it was the dominant emotion-sometimes the only emotion-I had. I felt like I was staring at the stump of a huge tree that had just been cut down in my backyard. The stump, which sat alone, kept reminding me of the beloved tree that I had lost. I could think of nothing but that tree. Every time I looked out the window, all I could see was that stump. Eventually, however, I decided to do something about it. I landscaped my backyard, reclaiming it once again as my own. I decided to keep the stump there, since it was both too big and too precious to remove. Instead of getting rid of it, I worked around it. I planted shrubs, trees, flowers, and grass. I laid out a brick pathway and built two benches. Then I watched everything grow. Now, three years later, the stump remains, still reminding me of the beloved tree I lost. But the stump is surrounded by a beautiful garden of blooming flowers and growing trees and lush grass. Likewise, the sorrow I feel remains, but I have tried to create a landscape around the loss so that what was once ugly is now an integral part of a larger, lovely whole.”
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a close loved one. I do know what it’s like to live at the edge of a very dark place and wonder if the darkness would completely envelope you. I remember Jeremy having to come home from work shortly after my second chemo to help get me out of the tub because my mom couldn’t get me out. I must have made it out of bed that morning to get Charis to school and decided to take a bath when my mom arrived to help me with the other kids and I started crying and I couldn’t stop. My mom tried to coax me out but it didn’t work. I remember my very patient husband coming home from work to reason with me. I remember this being the most difficult day of my cancer journey.
There’s a stump in my life and It’s never going to fully be gone from my life. It’s a loss I’m learning to live with. I have tried desperately to hurry through it. To dress it up. To be a model patient through it all. But it still remains. I’m not sure if I can totally express myself fully with this. I’m not going to try to. It’s just there. It will always be there. I am learning to live with it, rather than overcoming it. I am trying to sit patiently with the dark days rather than questioning why they are there. I am learning to let it be a part of my life rather than rushing it away.
I am learning to embrace what was, while still moving on.