Monday, June 25, 2012

Love Them Like Jesus

I sat in the Plastic surgeon's waiting room a couple weeks back.  I had my tablet and was playing a level of angry birds, furiously trying to kill the trio that was thwarting me.  Three women near me were busy chatting and comparing their cancer war stories.  Inwardly I was grimacing as the loudest spoke openly of necrotic, smelly incisions that did not heal.  About the parade of ER visits before someone decided maybe that infection needed a stronger antibiotic.  It wasn't appearing to me the poor woman she had cornered wanted to hear her details either.  She turned her attention over to me,

"How long ago was your mastectomy dear?" she asked me.  I looked up with an eyebrow cocked at her, wondering to myself why she thought I had a mastectomy.  Not everyone in the plastic surgeon's waiting room is there for reconstruction of the breast.  A look around reveals there are people without legs or facial features.  

It was as if she read my mind, as she gestured to her own chest and told me "I'm assuming it's breast cancer, you have that flat, reconstructed look."  In my mind, I thanked her ever so much for announcing to everyone about my flat reconstructed look.  With a sigh I answered, "My diagnosis date will be 2 years ago in July."  She congratulated me for my coming second anniversary and then she put her hand on my arm and then announced, "You are so lucky!  You are getting a boob job for free!"

Free?  This was costing me dearly in so many ways.  Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.  The price of my free boob job was more than I was willing to pay.

For a brief moment I contemplated ripping open my shirt and showing her my mutilated and contorted body where each breath gives its own share of pain. Lucky?  Seriously, did she just say LUCKY?  Free Boob JOB?  I don't care if the old boobs could be strapped to my knees, they were better than dealing with this.

In 1985, I had a miscarriage.  I was only 6 weeks pregnant, but this pregnancy was the culmination of 4 years of intensive fertility treatment.   The moment the stick turned blue, I loved my baby.  The very night I gave the good news to my husband, I would find myself hemorrhaging within 5 hours.  When I passed the tiny body of our child, we were instructed to keep it in a specimen cup along with any clots or other materials, until I saw the doctor the next day.

Friends called to tell me...

This was for the best; you might have been saddled with a defective child. 
This is God's way of getting rid of defective babies.
It just wasn't meant to be.
Was it gross?  You know...keeping the body in your fridge?
At least you lost it early before you came to feel it and love it.
At least you don't have the expense of having to bury it.
At least you can try again.
At least you now know you CAN get pregnant.
At least you weren't showing yet, you don't have to do a lot of explaining to people.
It’s better to lose the pregnancy now than to have a still birth later.
It was God's will.

My sister in law carried twins to full term.  Unknown to her, they were mono - amniotic/mono-chorionic twins.  They were identical twins who developed within and shared the same amniotic sac.  For 9 months, these little boys played, kicked, punched, twisted and rolled over each other.  In the process, their umbilical cords became twisted, combined and knotted.  The doctor was a family Practioner, who had not noted the importance of the MA/MC diagnosis.  For the reason I stated they are usually delivered by c-section, vaginal delivery is dangerous to the intertwined umbilical cords.  Her doctor did not do a C-section.

Her labor was rapid and she delivered the first baby without incident, but his birth carried out the tangle of umbilical cords, including those of his twin brother. What followed blows this ole OB nurses mind, but I'll skip to the part where an emergency C Section delivered a child in such distress, he had to be resuscitated over a great length of time and put on life support.  He was flown to large city hospial, where they tried to sustain his life.  After multiple brain bleeds and increasingly dire EEG results, my sister in law and her husband made the painful decision to remove him from life support.  She got to hold him for the first time as he struggled to take his last breaths.

She was told…

At least you weren't left with a mentally disabled child
At least you have another baby to love so you won't miss this one.
At least he died before you could make memories and really miss him.
Must have been hard to pull the plug on your own child.
God must have wanted another beautiful flower to put in his garden. (My personal disgusted favorite)
God must have missed his spirit and wanted him back.
It's better this way.  The financial burden would have been horrendous.
You have his twin brother to love, so you will always see his face.
It was just not God's will for you to have two babies.

A dear sister received one of those phone calls in the middle of the night.  It was the highway patrol.  "Mrs. Anderson, I regret to inform you...your son....head on collision...he did not survive."  She doesn't remember hanging up the phone.  Rushing to the hospital, the ER tells her, she cannot see the remains.  She doesn't want that to be the last image she has of her son.  The funeral was held with a closed casket.

She was told...

How bad was he messed up that you had to have a closed casket?
God must have needed him more than you did.
At least you have his memories to hold on to.
When it's your time, it's your time.
At least he wasn't left a vegetable.
Be grateful for the time you had with him.
God must have decided his work here was done.
You know it was God's will.

Another round of fertility drugs had proven to be a loss.  The young couple grieved another opportunity did not bring the desire of their hearts.

They were told...

You can try again.
The world is over populated anyway.
Being a parents isn't all it’s cracked up to be.  You wanna borrow mine for a week?
Is there some sin in your heart?  There must be a reason God isn't blessing you with a child.
How much do those drugs and treatments cost.  Wouldn't it be better to put that toward adopting?
Just get a dog.  It’s almost the same thing.
Buy a house instead.  The house doesn't get mouthy in 13 years.
My friend adopted a baby and the next month when they stopped trying...she found out she was pregnant.  So just adopt a baby and you will have a real baby AND an adopted one.
After you do the "you know", stand on your head for 30 minutes.  My sister's cousin in law's aunt's mother did that and she got pregnant.
Well you guys just must not be "doing it right".
It might not be God's will for you to have children.

The young woman enjoyed her life.  She loved her career.  She loved the home she bought and enjoyed tramping through garage sales and flea markets for the perfect additions to her decor.  She was active in her church, and she mentored several teen girls.  She was "good" with where God has put her.  Her life was full.  She wasn't aware anything was missing.

She was told...

I'm so tired.  You can't understand as you don't have a demanding husband or kids to run around.
It must be nice not to have to share the bed.
You can't know how hard it is to juggle a job and a home.  I mean you don't have a husband to deal with.
You don't have to deal with someone else's junk I mean treasures do you?
You must have so much spare time.  That must be nice.
Have you tried those online dating services?  That might get ya a man.
Your life must be so empty without someone to love.
When its God will for you to marry, it will happen.

The doctor just told her, its cancer.  Her immediate thought goes to her husband, her children, and the sisters.  Her mind flashes to the future and she fears what she sees there.

She was told....

Is it the good cancer or the bad cancer?
Have you written a will?
I hear chemo isn't that bad,
Well it’s a drastic weight loss program.
Let me know if there's something I can do for ya (please God don't let her call me)
I'll be prayin' for ya.
Well you'll get a boob job, (or insert tummy tuck) when you reconstruct.
Are those fake boobies you have now?
Wow.  That sucks, why didn't they catch it earlier?
Have they told you how much time you have?
When you die will you go to heaven or hell?  Do you know Jesus?
We have to trust this is God's will for your life.

They couldn't catch their breath, the news was so good.  "It's a boy!" the agency said.  You can come up to meet him tomorrow.  The court meets next Thurs to award temporary custody to you.  In 6 months, the adoption will be final.  They joyously introduced their new infant son to their friends and families.

They were told…

Wow.  So you couldn't have kids?
That must have set you back a bundle.
He's cute.  Looks nothing like either of ya though.
Too bad, you couldn't have children.
Well I think it's a wonderful thing you’re doing taking on someone else's mistakes.
Do you know what kind of people he came from?  What if he’s grows up to be a psychopath?
So do ya think you'll get to keep him?  Is the birth mother sure about giving him up?
Must be nice to just go buy a baby and not have the stretch marks, the labor or those hormones!

Some of you may have read through these comments and said no one in their right mind could have said these things.  I assure you I have heard all these and much worse.  My own experiences with infertility, miscarriage, cancer, the death of a family member, all these were said and more. I even found myself saying something stupid, and in my rush to "fix my blunder" I said something worse. After my miscarriage and staring off at yet another good person who had assured me that "if I just keep trying it will happen".  I wondered what possessed them to make such inane statements.  I learned a truth in that experience.  

Good, well-meaning people will say 
really stupid things.

Recently a young woman I'm acquainted with lost her baby in a miscarriage.  In talking to her about what to expect physically I also warned her to be prepared.  Some really nice people were going to say really stupid things to her.  When she made the announcement on facebook, the stupid things started appearing just as I warned her.  I shook my head at the things I read.  I couldn't believe what possesses some people to say such things.  

Truly they aren't meaning to be so cruel.  They are just filling the silence.  It's uncomfortable to not know what to we rush to say something, ANYTHING to fill the silence.  And it's usually something awful.

Most of the time, a hug and a genuine I’m so sorry is appreciated more than your manufactured statements.  Sitting with us when our heart is broken.  Holding us in tears.  Dropping off a casserole or dinner with a quick hug and “I love you” ...

Love Them Like Jesus (Casting Crowns)

Asking someone, "Tell me what you need and it's done" is appreciated more than "If there's something you need just let me know."  When we are in crisis, we don't usually know WHAT we need until we need it.  And then we feel like a burden to call and ask...

My own cancer experience taught me the difference between the generic and the specific.  "Let me know" was the generic of course.  Those who said to me, "If you need a ride, you call me.  If you need help doing laundry, you call me.  If you need me to run your errands, you let me know."  and "Tell me what kinds of things you need, and I will let you know what I can help with."  That was so appreciated.  Knowing what people are genuinely willing to do gives direction on where help is needed, and who to call.

One day not long into my diagnosis, I walked to my landlady's home and knocked.  I explained I had just been diagnosed with cancer and in fact just returned from chemo class. I would have my first chemo treatment that very next week.  She took my hands and looked me in the eye and asked me "Tell me what you need from me."  I asked her to extend some grace to us in keeping the yard work done.  I didn't know how long it would be before I would be well enough to get the yard mowed.  With my husband's neuro-muscular disease, it might get a little long before I recovered from chemo enough to bring out the rider.

"Absolutely not" she answered me and for an instant my heart sunk.  "I don't want you to be concerned about the lawn at all.  My boys and I will keep it mowed.  You and your husband just need to take care of each other and get through this."  I cannot tell you the explosion of warmth that filled me at her words.  A real offer that was born from a real concern.  It was a beautiful thing.

I've learned to accept this as well, and you may have to take a deep breath for this one...

Not everything happens because 
God MADE it happen.

Sometimes sucky bad things happen to wonderful people because we live in a fallen, deteriorating world where evil triumphs and sometimes the good die young.  Sometimes bad things happen because Sin rules this world. Someone uses their free will to inflict great evil upon another being, a person makes a bad decision in a split second that changes lives and families.  God may have the foreknowledge, I believe with ALL my heart that He cringes to hear people over and over attributing these atrocities and tragedies to His WILL.  It was not God's Will that a son dies in a head on collision.  It's not God's will that a person gets cancer.  It's not God's will when a baby dies before her parents get to meet her.  But I can tell you that in that ugly darkness, God is there with us.  He's weeping with us and if we let Him, in time He will grow something valuable from this dark place.  I'm not asking you to believe me, because it took me 40 years to believe it myself.  Just be willing to try.

I see His deepest wishes that sin never infected our souls and separated us from his Pure Heart and Perfect plan. The knowledge that this chain of events was enfolding in front of Him, the bad things were going to happen did not mean that He orchestrated the events.  There is another force at work here on earth.  It is the power that controls right now, but the day is coming when that power will be defeated. But for now, we need a little help keeping our arms in the air as they grow weak from the battle.

Many years ago, I had an incident in my life that knocked the wind out of me and swept my legs out from under me.  I called my BFF and explained to her what happened.  She told me to come over immediately.  I arrived and her home was glowing with scented candles.  She asked me, "You want Lemon Zinger?"  She heated the tea pot and poured my cup.  She handed me tissue after tissue and murmured, "I'm so sorry" over and over.  She couldn't fix what was wrong.  She did not try to fill the silence.  She did not try to fix my pain.  She just let me talk, kept my tea cup full, and the tissues handy. She cried with me when there were no more words.  It was the most beautiful gift I had ever been given in a time of need.  When I tell her I need to talk RIGHT NOW.  She tells me, "I'm putting on the kettle."  And I love her for that.

It is fine to not know the answers.  You are not required to defend God in the face of unexpected loss, death, or disease.   We may ask the question why, but we don't really need you to answer. We really just to need to know that you are standing with us in solidarity as we face adversity, that you hold our hand while we weep and pass us tissues and you will rejoice in our happiness.  We aren't expecting you to fill the silence of painful moments. 

Exodux 17: 8 - 13 
 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.  Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”  So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.   So Joshua overcame the Amalekit army with the sword.

 We just need your support.


  1. there are times in everyone's lives that bad things happen. What we do when those events happen to those we love and when they happen to ourselves reveals so much. Silence is truly golden at the right time. the touch of a hand holding ours, the arm around us holding us up, the outstretched hanky or cup of tea may not make the bad go away but helps us to bear up under it as we bear each other's burdens. May you feel the hand of God, the precious nail-scarred hand of Jesus holding you up today, and may the Holy Spirit offer prayers up for you, Dear Tina.

  2. Beautiful and filled with truth. I've heard those same stupid sayings directed at myself and those I love. I can't believe the things some people say. Thanks for reminding me that they don't mean to be hurtful.

  3. Beautiful, tender post. Yes, we DO say stupid things. Not usually from a heart of malice, but from a heart of ignorance, a heart wanting to say something helpful but having no wisdom to share from. I think this is why Jesus told us to "weep with those who weep." Job's friends were a great comfort until they opened their mouths!

    Thanks for sharing this, dear.

  4. This was wonderful! I've been told many of those and probably spouted a few in ignorance myself. Sometimes "sorry" and "I'll take care of that for you" are the best things in the world.

  5. Beautiful post and so full of truth! Sometimes a willing servant's heart and a lending an ear is really what is needed. Silence is truly golden...tears are cleansing. Thanks for sharing from your heart!