Monday, March 26, 2007

The way of the wind

Life can be described as a roller coaster ride between joy and heartache. We’ve experienced that ride acutely at our house in the past few days.

First, the joy.

Our only child became a legal adult yesterday. Happy 18th, KM.

Although my memory for events is spotty at best and practically nonexistent at worst, I can recall vividly the moments surrounding my daughter's birth on the Saturday before Easter 1989:
  • My wife's doctor, summoned urgently to the hospital from a supermarket errand — she literally left a cart filled with Easter dinner fixings stranded in the aisle at Safeway — thrusting her head into the delivery room to ask whether she had time to change clothes, only to be told by the attending nurse, "Just barely."

  • The seemingly eternal seconds as the doctor labored to free the umbilical cord that had looped around the baby's neck as she made her way toward daylight.

  • All of the sights, sounds, and smells of the delivery room, from KM's first cry, to the eerie flesh-cutting noise the scissors made in my hand as they dug into and through her umbilical cord.
I can scarcely believe that 18 years have flown past. And even though I realize that this squirming infant whose tiny hand clutched the edge of the scale as she weighed in for the first time has now blossomed into a lovely, intelligent, funny, and curious young woman, it baffles me how it could have happened so quickly.

KJ and I have shared many laughs with — and many tears — for our daughter. We have watched with fascination and trepidation as she has grown and matured. And we could hardly be more proud of the person she has become.

And then, the heartbreak.

On Thursday afternoon, a call from the oncologist confirmed our fears — that the leg pain KJ has suffered for the past few weeks is the result of a metastasis, located in her left hipbone, of the breast cancer for which she was treated six and a half years ago.

As clearly as I recall our daughter’s birth, I remember with equal vividness that day in the fall of 2000 when we first learned that my wife had cancer.

I remember the horror on her face as the surgeon broke the news to her over the telephone.

I remember the blood pounding behind my eardrums as the doctor repeated the diagnosis to me.

And I remember:
  • The two surgeries: first the biopsy, then the radical mastectomy.

  • The numerous physician visits during which I scribbled furiously in my little brown notebook words that I hoped would make sense later.

  • The interminably long hours at the infusion center while KJ received her chemotherapy treatments.

  • Leafing through countless magazines in endless waiting rooms.

  • The terror of a dire present and an inscrutable future.
A very long time ago, a wise king summarized human existence with these words:
In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good. Truly the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; but if a man lives many years and rejoices in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. (Ecclesiastes 11:6-8)
The abridged version: Life is uncertain, kid. You've gotta accept the bad with the good.

As a father, I have expansive hopes for my newly adult daughter. I hope that the Lord grants her a long, healthy, and happy life. I hope that she someday finds a great love with a worthy man. I hope that she finds joy and inspiration in all of her pursuits. I hope that she chooses to serve the God who made her faithfully all the days of her life.

Likewise, as a husband, I have expansive hopes for my wife. I hope that she triumphs over this dreaded disease again, even as she did — by God's grace — six years ago. I hope that she, too, will enjoy yet many joyful years of life. I hope that she will live to see all of our hopes for our beloved daughter realized.

Whether any of my hopes for my wife and daughter will be realized, I do not know:
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
All I can do is pray.

Thanks for listening, friend reader. I promise you something less serious tomorrow.

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5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Tom Galloway offered these pearls of wisdom...

As I know from experience with my father's cancer, all one can really say is best wishes and hope that it goes into remission again.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Donna offered these pearls of wisdom...

All the many trials, tribulations and stress that I am experiencing at present faded in an instant as I read your words. Black type font on a white background blurred as tears formed in my eyes. KJ's name is being added to a multitude of prayer lists as soon I can begin dialing my phone. I am speechless; I am stunned.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous offered these pearls of wisdom...


Just happened to check in on my old friend to read your news about KM and KJ. Love to you and your family. I send you lots of healing energy and all the laughter we've shared during our time at HPR. Janet (Kaufman) Matthews

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Theresa offered these pearls of wisdom...

Dearest Michael - You are never without just the right words. I, on the other hand, am speechless. Janet emailed with the news about KM. I don't understand why such a good woman and her loved ones have been asked to face this yet again. Please know you, KJ and KM are all in my prayers. And, if I can treat you to Rubio's, please, just say the word. Warmly, Theresa H.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Dan Mancini offered these pearls of wisdom...

Hi, Michael,

I just got the news by way of Mike Stailey's weekly update. I'm so sorry to hear it. Hang tight to the wisdom you so eloquently quote in your post.

I'll be praying for your family.

It was a pleasure working alongside you at Verdict (especially since we were part of the same Freshman class, so to speak). Your wit and elan will be missed.


5:53 AM  

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