Eleven years ago we were at this same beach. In a house on this same street. And we took this picture.
This past week, I (somehow) cajoled my family into replicating that old photo. “For fun!” I told them, encouragingly! A few of them gave me the look--like what is our mom now asking us to do--but lately, they have all been pretty agreeable with most of my requests. I guess this is the silver lining kind of stuff. =)
Eleven years ago Bella was just home from China. We were a brand new family of 7. It was a glorious time introducing our tiny girl to the big ocean and all of its wonders. Truly one of those A+ kind of vacations.
But the week following that trip, we returned home and, shockingly, I was handed my first diagnosis of breast cancer.
That year, as I went through surgery and treatments, I often looked back at our beach pictures from that trip just prior to diagnosis. I saw our healthy, happy, tanned faces. I saw our joy and carefree family and sometimes, the cancer thing well it didn’t even feel real.
It didn’t seem possible.
How? How could we be one day jumping waves in the ocean and the next week jumping through medical hoops at the hospital?
It didn't make sense then.
It doesn't make sense now.
Here we are again. Same family of 7, eleven years later. Only now we know. Now we deal with this next go around—this 2nd more difficult diagnosis. And there are more medical hoops. A harder prognosis. Higher stakes.We are back home this week. Still a little tanned. Still finding sand in the bottom of bags and in the back seat of my car, but this week I have ahead of me a brain MRI on Thursday and another infusion on Friday. Not really what I wanted to come home to, but part of my new reality.
Grand as it was, the beach trip is officially over.
And again, in a weird way, I’m battling the same disbelief as 11 years ago. We just had another glorious week playing at the beach, walking along the ocean, enjoying each other and God’s creation completely. Feeling good, healthy, happy. And there’s this part of me that wants to deny there’s disease in my body. I don’t look sick. Honestly, I don’t even feel sick--a few things going on, but not much. Anyone watching our family from afar this past week would never guess what it is we’ve been processing in these past couple of months.
It doesn’t make sense. Again, it doesn’t add up or fit our family photo.
I’m not sure we’ll ever understand how beach trips and brutal cancer can happen side by side in this world. But they do. The beautiful and the ugly. The wonderful and the tragic. All of it mingled mysteriously together in what we call life.
It’s absolutely true. For all of us … in some way.
Maybe it’s not cancer for you, but something else which just doesn’t quite fit the picture you had planned.
Something you didn’t see coming.
Something which turned out differently than imagined.
I don't know what it is you are dealing with, but I do want you to know you aren’t alone. I sit in that sadness/disappointment/grief with you. I don’t want terminal cancer to be a part of my family’s picture either. Everything inside of me wants to shake my fist and shout out--it really wasn’t supposed to be like this!
This week is not just the week after spring break, but it is Easter week. Holy week. Just like it was eleven years ago when we returned from the beach. For me, that was and that is everything. It is in this week more than ever that I find my hope, my assurance, my life.
Even with my resistance to cancer and my occasional feelings of disbelief, Easter is everything. Easter saves me. Because of Easter--because Jesus died on a cross and rose from an empty tomb--each day I know, no matter what, I will be okay. No matter what turn this diagnosis takes. No matter what the brain MRI shows tomorrow. No matter how hard this next year or next decade or next whatever. No matter what, Jesus died and rose again for me, for my life and, most importantly, for my death. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55
And because of that truth I can wake every single day with a choice. I can—
Succumb to the grief of this life?
Surrender to the Giver of True Life?
Yes, dear ones, some days are hard. Heartbreaking, in fact.
But every day is Holy. Precious. Counted. Coveted.
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me,
though he die, yet shall he live." ~ John 11:25
Note: I started to write this piece on my last full day at the beach just a couple hours after taking our funny “recreated” family photo. It was later that day we received word that a friend from back home had been in a terrible skiing accident. Mary Lynn and Stewart, had been skiing in Colorado with their 3 daughters for spring break. The impact from Stewart's accident was too devastating and a day later he went to be with Jesus. We are heartbroken for these friends. This tragedy has rocked our community deeply. It surely doesn’t seem possible. Yes, there’s immense, unbelievable grief and we don’t fully understand the how or why. Probably never will. Stewart's wife, Mary Lynn, wrote these words: "The girls and I said goodbye this evening to his earthly body but we know he is home and that we will be with him again. We have great hope. Great hope.”
These are not easy words. These were written by a woman who, in a most unimaginable way, had just said goodbye to her husband. She didn't write them casually or because it was the right thing to say. She wrote them because she believes them. In life and in death. In the very beautiful and in the very terrible. She wrote them, because she believes confidently in the Hope we have in Christ.Life IS precious. Our days are to be counted. Whatever amount we are given. Whatever the story, whatever the path, whatever the diagnosis, whatever the disappointment, even whatever the devastation. We have a choice to put our trust in the flimsy here and now or in the solid HOPE of Jesus and our eternity with Him.
Oh dear ones, choose carefully. Our earthly snapshots are brief. So brief.
But heaven is the bigger picture.
some favorites from our trip eleven years ago ...