Friday, July 1, 2011

needy or not

not too long after first hearing the ugly C word, my 15 year old, emily, made the statement, "i am tired of being the family in need."   her sigh-heavy words rattled around my mother-brain for quite some days after.   indignation bled into bewilderment.  i hadn't ever defined us as "in need"...or needy...or that kind of family.  except that we are.  even in our health and our happiness we are a needy collection.  each day it becomes clearer.  we are all in need of something.  much of it depends on our willingness to tell people.  our willingness to allow others into the gaping holes (or even tiny cracks) of our lives.  it depends on whether we are brave enough to let the beat up cat out of the bag or to spill the mess-making beans of our vulnerability.  and then, of course, sometimes we aren't given the choice - it is just obvious.

emily was referring to the steady stream of people coming alongside us.  it seemed we had only just moved out of the spotlight of bella's adoption when the cancer struck.  all of a sudden we had people rearranging themselves back into our lives with lovely offers of help.  bella's adoption had stirred our personal community into incredible action.  children opened piggy banks and brought ziploc baggies full of nickels and dimes wanting to contribute to the cost of her adoption.  friends designed t-shirts and sold jewelry and created prayer cards.  parties were hosted.  word was spread. a community of friends joined in our pursuit of bella.  i've written about so many of the love offerings already.  the early part of this blog is full of snipits of friend-support: meals brought, children watched, prayers prayed.  it was a tremendous time of being well loved, needy or not.  and it was all so sweet.

then came cancer.  before the word was even whispered, it began.  the night of my biopsy my friend, kelly, marched in a with a meal.  she brought this plastic bin filled with food and spring flowers.  my kids raced upstairs to tell me about the grand treasure trove mrs. laughlin had just delivered.  we didn't feel needy, we felt special. i certainly didn't think about this meal as the beginning of something big.  i was thinking routine biopsy...barely a blip, right?  i wasn't all that worried. but that was the beginning.  since that  biopsy date, april 18th, i have hardly had to stir a pot or slice a potato.  there have been evenings when i peeked inside tinfoiled dishes and tasted the lump of gratitude stuck hard in my throat.  it has been humbling to watch meal after meal set in front of the six at my table.  brought food will do that - especially to a mother.  last week our meal calendar came to a close and i felt a type of grieving set in.  i knew it was time to take command of all things domestic, but i felt like a kid back up on ice skates after a long, summer season. i kind of stared aimlessly into the face of my kitchen wondering what to do.  and though it all looked familiar, things still felt strangely foreign.  i couldn't find a cutting board.  i felt myself cringe when the first child wandered in and asked the reliable, late afternoon question, "mom, what's for dinner?"  it was time.

over the past couple of months, i have often felt like the paralyzed man on the mat.  the one who had to be carried to the feet of Jesus by his four faithful friends.  the man who could do little for himself and who lived life at the mercy of others.  the man who had four friends willing to move heaven and earth and some roof tiles in hope of lowering this man before the face of God.   they were willing to do whatever it took.  they carried and climbed and lowered and brought - no matter what.   incredible friends they were:  relentless. persevering. creative. this foursome.

if i had been one of those four i am not entirely sure what i would have done.  had i carried a friend across the dusty dirt of ancient city only to find the front door blocked with the masses, would i have come up with a plan b?  would i have had the energy and compassion and desire  and time to search for an alternate route? a resourceful way in? or would i have said, "sorry man-on-the-mat, this just isn't happening today..." and set my friend down on the porch.  in his paralysis.  in his incredible need.  i'd love to think myself a friend willing to scale rooftops and carry weight and balance carefully and stop at absolutely nothing.  that's the kind of friend i want to be.  and those are the kinds of friends i have.  i do.  this man had four, i feel as if i have four thousand.  how can it be? again, humbling.

my friend, meritt, is one of them.  and she is the kind of friend willing to risk the rooftop. meritt kind of took over managing me and my health crisis from day one.  i didn't even know i needed her.  but  i did.   when we were in the first few weeks of terrible blur, it was meritt who kept up with the phone calls and appointments and paperwork.   i could barely locate my toothbrush, let alone remember to go online and print a form or copy an insurance card.   ironically enough, meritt was with me when the phone call came with word of cancer.  we sat under a great, big tree in our friend, beverly's, front yard and listened to the radiologist read her report.  meritt didn't need to ask the news.  she witnessed the crumble.  words were unnecessary.

from that moment to today, she hasn't once wavered.  meritt has attended appointments, taken careful notes, organized my medical notebook and texted me reminders about my antibiotics.  in the post-surgery weeks, she changed bandages, stripped tubes and listened patiently to my long litany of mysterious symptoms.  she even (along with our friend karen) helped me break into a wal mart dressing room at midnight to change my too confining bra. (it's a long story).  she has been the constant friend carrying the details and keeping the wave of information at bay.  meritt has brought much to this journey, but the very best thing she brings is laughter.  cancer has come hard and sharp.  it is a serious business. but in all of this awful, we have, somehow, been able to find something light.  meritt and i have navigated this ordeal more like a laverne and shirley episode - more than you'd ever think possible.  we have been great friends for many years...but i am not sure we have ever laughed as much as in these past couple of months.  i mean that.  i know some of you might find that unsettling.  perhaps it is....but for whatever reason, it has helped and it has worked and i am thankful.

and so, more and more,  i've been able to unwrap my prideful fingers from emily's comment.  it bothers me, less and less, to be called needy.  i understand how she feels, especially at 15, but i know even better today how needy can actually become blessed.   peering under hot tinfoil lids and changing bras in blocked off dressing rooms and feeling carried by four or four thousand that is blessing.  watching love wrap itself around my frightened family two times in the same year...that is blessing.   pure blessing - needy or not.  


Simply LKJ said...

Jody, Kate and I ran into the girls (Emily and Sarah) at Target the other day...both look like they are enjoying summer, tanned and full of happy to see! When asked, "how's mom?" They replied, "she's doing great!!!" and were full of smiles!!! I know it can't be easy for them, as I have two of my own, but they are such sweet, sweet girls! Meritt...what a blessing she is to you and your family. God always sends angels!! And, she is obviously one of them. We continue to pray for you and the family each day.

carolyn bradford said...

Thank you so very much for all that you share! I truly am praying for a "Meritt" in my life! I'm not going through cancer...even though I was scared or awhile...but what I'm going through hurts like crazy and I'm embarassed to admit it and I really wish I could open up and talk to my friends about my broken heartedness over my daughter and her husband and all that they are going through business wise....It's something I will never understand and yet I don't have too! I just want a friend like Meritt that I can confide in! I'm so glad you have her!!!!
Once again...I'm praying for you and I'm so glad I first found your blog through Valerie!

Valerie said...

Things I remember learning....and prayed i wouldn't forget: it's ok not to be able to do something because i'm tired or i just can't do all that i used to; i can say no. It's ok to need help, - this is still really hard for me. It's ok to let others fill in my gaps. It's ok to not be "the answer" to fixing the issue. For all the times i've been frustrated with our very large church, it manifested the body of Christ to me in ways i never would have known or seen through the hands that held up our family. I can now speak more enthusiastically for the benefits of a large church. My kids also were tired of always being asked how we were, how they were...and longed for the old meals...even if the provided ones were better, they got tired of all the people and hid at church! I know that God worked something in them too. I still see the evidence of that time stamped on their lives and sometimes mourn the way that it is manifested but i know it was God who planned it to mold them, not just to mold me. I learned how to cry more easily with others in pain and not to have to give an answer or even a verse...(i wish time hadn't moved me back toward stoicism)I learned how sacrifically my husband could love me ---What i miss the most---a clean house! I don't even know the names of the folks who came to clean regularly as i was often upstairs asleep but what a blessing they were and a fond rememberance. One of the classes gave me some little placards as a teacher gift this past spring. one says" God knows the plans He has for me and also how to get me there"
We are blessed.

Aus said...

Good morning Jody - pleased to hear such things as this from are Blessed to have a Meritt in you life but more so you are Blessed to have learned many lessons throughout this ordeal!

And as for your question about yourself....that's an easy one Jody - you'd have been up on the roof in a second - you've made more "plan b's" over the past several months than you ever want to realize!

hugs - aus and co.