When the phone rings late at night, every parent and grandparent knows the concern that tightens your stomach, and the prayer that forms on your lips before you pick up the call.
Date-stamped on our hearts was news delivered one August night when I answered the late-night ringing. My daughter’s concerned voice brought me to full attention, sudden fear gripping my heart. “The family chiropractor’s radiologist saw something in Dave’s x-ray” she said, “and Mom, they think it could be cancer.”
A robust 14, Dave was an all-star football player. His mature focus and fierceness had earned him a reputation – and a number of hard knocks including broken bones, cuts and minor surgeries. Thus, it had been “nothing new” to have Dave discover a new ache over the summer. He played hard and would often ache all over when he got home but always laughed it off, saying he was sure the players he tackled hurt worse than he did! But Dave would not be preparing for his first freshman scrimmage after his paper-route in a few hours. Instead, he would be heading to the hospital. Numb with shock, we prayed for him and for the medical staff who would bring a diagnosis in a few short hours.
All thought of sleep had fled for me, and I headed for my stress reliever – the treadmill. Despite the lateness of the hour, I flipped on the CD player, climbed on the belt and began a light jog. The words “Come, now is the time to worship.” filled the air and I gasped at the thought. Worship. Now? Worship? That, I reminded my numbed brain, was focusing on the qualities of God.
As I ran, and the music played on, the words came.
Almighty, Benevolent, Creator, Divine…. Excellent, Faithful – GOD… like a cadence it blended as the music continued, “come, come…”
I really wanted to run – to run away from whatever we had to face tomorrow, but God was telling me instead to “Come.”
Full circle, it brought back memories of my tendency when Ken and I first married to “run” if I’d done something wrong. Sensitive to my wounded past, Ken would, instead of chastising me, open his arms and welcome me to “come” and to know love, forgiveness and healing.
It made it so much easier to deal with any situation to know that I was so cherished.
Perspiration blended with tears as I ran and ran, exhausting the alphabet and my body.
Calls of diagnosis, treatment plans and surgery went back and forth at a frantic pace the first 12 hours. I agreed to spend nights with the children so Dave’s parents could remain at the hospital and go to work from there.
My voice trembled at work the next morning… a good friend heard the pain in my voice and asked, “What’s wrong?” Her reaction to my news was memorable, and so like her: “I can help…I will…” She began brainstorming her skills and skills of others that she knew. Her assurances made me want to worship the God who was already proving his presence through her.
A shared burden is lighter, and I felt strengthened by her friendship and tender heart. I’d been wondering how I would survive this pain, and now her voice saying, “I can” rang in my ears. Meanwhile 16 family members greeted me from our Christmas family photo on the bulletin board, reminding me that they also would soon be treading un-familiar territory in their faith-walk. And what about David?
A soft-spoken, thoroughly athletic young man, Dave was built sturdily, like his Dad. From the time he could walk he emulated his daddy-hero, playing football and baseball from kindergarten to high school. He later told me that he knew every part of “his story” was a part of God’s plan for him – even this ‘place’ in his life was where God meant for him to be. From the beginning he knew things were serious because his parents wept while praying before they went into the hospital. But he knew we were not fighting alone. Our angel of mercy had been busy, and her works were personal. Soon David’s arms held an autographed Green Bay Packer football, and he had the fresh fruit he longed for. My special friend somehow knew that if his family was cared for Dave could focus on his healing, and soon their arms, too, were filled with cards, gifts and email responses to bring to the hospital or to the siblings at home. Her inspiration had spread to hundreds who contacted others, who contacted others.
One woman’s open heart had begun a cascade of helps, prayers and examples of faith-in-action that continued throughout all 5 years of Dave’s cancer battle. Every time I think of her, I remember that one person saying “I can and I will” makes a huge difference.
That one woman who personalized Dave’s need, enlisted a community of supporters and gave a family inspiration and hope that they did not have to fight the battle alone inspired me to look at people in need with new understanding and also say, “I can.”
Do you know that woman, or a woman like her?
Are you that woman?
If so, thank you on behalf of all grandparents, parents, siblings, relatives and dear friends who have needed someone in their chaos to say I can, and I will.