Like a woman used to being beaten, my mouth moves mechanically to accept the news, to ask the questions of what are the next steps, when does chemo start. Whittling away, my surface gives way without putting up a fight. It yields and is also strangely impenetrable, the news falling to the ground – barely leaving evidence that it ever came into contact with my flesh.
As today wore on with no word and my mind plodded and sprinted toward the inevitable conclusion, I saw myself upon the shore of a river. I walked to the edge and watched as the current raced away from the place where I stood. Deliberately, I stepped foot into those icy waters and I continued out into the middle, only seeking to maintain footing until the moment when I was in the center and felt the tug, pulling against my legs and torso. Then I lay back and lifted my feet and knew I was being swept away. I gave myself over to that force. There was both terror and relief and odd calm. I knew not where the river would take me, but I relinquished myself to its directing. My eyes are hot and stinging with weighty pressure on my brow. Maybe it is easier to give yourself over to the Lord when you look around at your life and see that you have lost your grip on everything you sought to craft into the vision you’ve held in your mind’s eye. Perhaps the further you travel this road, the further you get from where you began, it begins to sink in that you are now simply too far away to ever return to that place. You realize that this journey is not simply an excursion from which you will return. No, you travel on, not knowing where you will settle but aware that it will not be in the home you left. Those bars by which you measured your life are now almost absurdly pointless for they employ an entirely different system of units. It is like having a bag stuffed with cash but arriving in a land where it’s value is not recognized and you realize it’s just paper. It is of little use in this strange country. There are heights and widths and depths you have never before known. The light holds colors for which you have no name.
I had held out hope that maybe we would be nearly done with this road and maybe we would be back home soon. Maybe, just maybe there would be nothing there and we could eventually settle back into our lovely little life at home – a life that has never looked so beautiful and precious. But this .06% is all it takes to force you on. There is part of me that is wide-eyed and desperate and whirling around, wondering how in the world I’m supposed to keep doing this. There is the savage sinking awareness that we just can’t shake this pursuer. It has bored deep into the core of our life – this faceless ravager whose poison infiltrates every part of our world. Nothing escapes its dark shadow.
It is odd though to feel such seeming opposing sensations. I feel beaten down, like a dog familiar with being kicked. My face is flat and I seek to escape to a place where I don’t feel. The losses have so amassed that I can no longer see their individual outlines. They pile up and my vision blurs. I see my small beloved painting of the big round hay bales in late afternoon light at the base of the Bridger foothills. I never got to see the fields turn green this year or all the happy bales of hay casting long shadows in the evening. I’ve missed six months of Solveig’s life. When she’s with me, she calls says, “grandma…I mean, mommy,” and it cuts and stings. When I look ahead at the road before us, the woes amass and merge and blur into deafening sorrow. I cave in utterly – there is little left for the blunt force to act upon. At the same time there is flat expanse, wide expanse that stretches itself into calm, into peace. There is odd rest in giving myself over to the Lord. I lay back upon the current and watch the sky pass overhead. I don’t know where the course of this river will take me. More and more, my life is not my own. It has been stripped away from me and I can longer fret over it. There is not even the slightest semblance of my being in control. As a social work major, I learned the ethics core to social work. One of these is “the right to self-determination.” Such a lovely idea until you realize it is a luxury. And there off to the side, in the periphery, is that still small voice of the Lord that proclaims that He is the one who determines the course of your life. You’d like to just forget you ever heard that voice. You’d like to keep your eyes straight ahead and drown out that sound with the notes of your choosing. I no longer have the luxury of that illusion and yet, its loss is odd gift. It is blessing that you sort of want to spit out of your mouth and one that you could never choose of your own accord. No. It had to be stripped from me. With force. With tearing. With violence. Because I was not going to loosen my grip. I had every intention of marching forward, my own directives clutched fiercely in my hand. But here I am – cast out into that sea of the Lord who knows no bounds. I am indeed, adrift in the Lord. He is above and below and surrounds me on all sides. And I am giving way to Him, with burning tears in my eyes, and I hate it and I despise it and I want to spit that .06% right out of my life with raging disgust, but He directs the current.
I am adrift in the expanse of my gracious Father. Lord have mercy. Father thank you that you made days – days that have limits, that will at last end. I lay down in exhaustion, but I will not forget Your first words to me when this all began. “Be expectant. Look for what I will do.” Weariness presses me flat, but, but…I wait for the Lord, for the dawn, for His mercies new every morning. I look expectantly for morning even as I close my eyes on this brutal day.