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Author: Jon

Trembling Hands

Hands

A Jon Post

For the second time in as many days I’ve held trembling hands in mine and given the news that all is not well.

Fingernails scratched against the concrete walls of cancer while her tears stained her face and I sat with an x-ray in my hand.

X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and scribbled doctors notes on paper all telling us that pain will only increase and rest will only flee frail bodies.

There I sat with an x-ray in one hand and her trembling hand in the other.

Last night a different hand but equally as precious lay limp in mine as I repeated the CT scan results about a 6 centimeter tumor eating at liver tissue and causing the growing pain in her abdomen. A cancer that grew with a placenta and a new life inside a swollen mothers belly took the life of that baby months ago and now gnaws at the mother’s liver splashing malignant cells around her body like dirty grey paint.

And her limp hand sat in mine while I pleaded internally with a silent God to give words where mine failed.

I heard none.

An ironic smile appeared on this orphaned-of-her-child mother’s face and she acknowledged the inability in our lungs and vocal cords to blow or shout against this cold wind that cannot be warded off with blankets and grows equally difficult to guard against with chemotherapeutic treatments.

Prayers fell in Portuguese like wounded sparrows from my lips and fell, splat, splat, splat, on this chipped tile floor in front of the bed we sat on.

This silent God once promised He cares for those sparrows and that not one of them falls to the ground unless He knows about it.

Maybe he caught the ones that fell last night but didn’t tell me.

The dark glass that we see through seemed especially dark last night as I hurled my prayers against it and succeeded in shattering only the glass yet not the darkness.

My wife picked up the pieces of this broken window of prayer and held them tight while finishing the plea to a Savior who weeps. I watched in silence marveling that, though so little light pierced through the hole where the glass once hung, how brightly shone that broken glass in the hands of a broken person.

We waited for I do not know what, sat and looked into frightened eyes, then put our children to sleep.

My daughter at bedtime thanked God for flowers and butterflies and in the same breath asked God to help the owner of those trembling hands to rest well. More shattered glass cut its way down my cheeks and I wondered if the faith of a child could be so much more than mine.

I live next to death like he could come over and ask me to borrow an egg or some flour or the soul of a sick friend, and yet each time he closes the gap between us only seems to make me more weary of his presence instead of accustomed to it.

I’ve never looked him in the eye myself but I’ve seen his reflection shining in the wet eyes of too many of my friends here.

And now his reflection looks back at me from two more sets of eyes.

Oh, Silent God.

Speak now.

 

Dusty Shoes and a Copper Ring

A Jon Post

Here I am again sitting on this worn green bench in the shade of a 6:30 AM pre-summer morning. “Oncology Service” hangs written in red block letters on the large sign hanging above the door, announcing in stark honesty the tools used to hold back tides of uncontrolled, malignant cell division.

I’ve spent more hours in these halls than I can count.

Here weariness lays on beds like thin white sheets, bleached and stretched and covering sick bodies in its embrace.

Here joy is eked out like a spoon of sugar in morning tea poured in to cover the bitterness of the dark, hot liquid, but as of late, too often forgone because there is just not enough in this hospital to go around.

Here tears are the dusty shoes we walk around in… ignored, expected, necessary to walk these corridors of pain and medicine.

This morning those shoes are worn by an old man in a thin blue windbreaker. The morning is murderously hot and humid but he clutches his windbreaker tight against his back, pulling it taught around his heaving shoulders.

Today he wears these tired shoes along with the large copper wedding ring on the hand he is using to wipe away his own unrelenting tears.

The woman for whom he wears that ring had lain in a bed here in this Oncology Service under her thin, bleached weariness for the last several weeks trying to find some sugar to flavor her tea.

This morning the hours I’ve spent here lay heavy on me.

Psalm 56:8I’ve seen so many Creator-image-bearers wear those dusty shoes that I’ve forgotten how precious they are in His sight.

This morning the Angel of Death stung the wife of the image-bearer and he put on his shoes and wept.

I’ve seen those shoes walk these halls often, even worn them myself many times.

But I’d forgotten their worth.

Now a copper ring, because cancer comes to the copper wearers more often than the gold and platinum wearers, shines bright on a shaking finger.

A husband weeps on a rickety green bench for a wife stung by the reason creation groans for redemption. The Angel of Death came for the copper-wearer’s wife and offered him those dusty shoes to help walk these grey halls of pain. And I sit in witness of the shoe-wearer.

Too often I’ve forgotten how valuable those shoes are. I’ve forgotten my Savior wore them often. He wore them when he heard his friend died. He wore them when he prayed in a garden. He wore them when he walked up a hill.

We have His promise that he’ll take those shoes and burn them one day. But until then, they can help us walk these halls.

On Our Couch

A Jon Post

She plays with my daughters in our backyard like they are her own children. Her smile and laugh are infectious, her joy bubbles out of her like a champagne glass.

And she’s dying.

She’s been away from her 18 year old son for 9 months and she is desperately tired of chemotherapy. Last week, when confronted with 2 more days of a 3 day course of chemotherapy, she lay on her bed and wept bitter tears on her pillow, tired and angry at her body for its betrayal and frailty.

Layne and I argued back and forth on whether we should counsel her to continue with her treatment or not, whether to hope for reduction in tumor size, or to forgo the torture that is fluorouracil and cisplatin dripped into her veins.

And we sat with her on our couch and held her hand and wept together. We explained in Portuguese and our partner and friend, Pedro, explained in Nyumbwe, her first language. We spoke about hope, about what chemo may be able to accomplish, we spoke about pain, about how her tumor will grow and close airways, and we spoke about Christ, who weeps with us and who knows what it means to pray for suffering to be taken away and to have the Father say no.

Anabela

 

Anabela sat silent. Her emotions wrecked, her heart exhausted, she wearily told us she’d try to keep doing chemo and hope her tumor recedes.

Oh, how I miss her smile; crooked and sloping up a little more on the right than the left. When she laughs, her head is thrown back, her whole body dances, and her spirit thrusts joy out of every pore.

She sleeps little due to a persistent cough that whispers of dangerous metastases. She cannot open her mouth wide because of a painful jaw and masseter muscle, both already deteriorating from the invasive tumor.

But she still smiles.

And we pray with her that she doesn’t stop.

Cancer and pain can take so much. They try to rob everything that is a person. The Bible talks about a thief who comes to steal and destroy. A thief who attempts to strip a person of hope, of joy, of peace, who wants to destroy dignity, trust, and any reason to smile. But we know One who came to give life to the full. Casa Ahavá is simply trying to be

a place where that One can sit with beloved daughters like Anabela.

So come, oh Life Giver. Come and sit with your precious daughter who sobs into her pillow because she is in so much pain. Come hold her close as she coughs dry lungs into a washcloth. Come rub tired and painful feet and swollen hands as she recovers from 5FU chemotherapy symptoms.

Casa Ahavá is pointless and a chasing after the wind without You here.

Come, Life Giver. 

The Work is Not Yet Finished

A Jon Post

I met a young mother in the hospital last week. I was there preparing to bring four OTHER women into Casa Ahavá and one of the oncologists pulled me into the conference room and told me about this woman with breast cancer.

“Can you take her too?” asked the oncologist.

“I’ve no space” came my tired and overused reply.

But I found myself walking the hallway to this young mother’s room anyway. I found myself at the foot of her bed, opening her file, seeing the familiar doctor scrawl across the “diagnosis” line, and feeling the familiar drop in my chest as I read what I already knew;

Breast cancer.

She was on the phone with her daughter when I came in.

Her daughter is 7 years old.

I heard the joy and pain in her voice as she asked how her daughter was doing in school and if she was obeying her grandmother. I heard her end the phone call with the tired lie “I will be home soon.”

I asked her about her daughter she immediately told me of her wonderful little girl and how much she misses her. How long it’s been since she was with her and how important it is for her to be in her school.

Unspoken but understood was the fear that she may not see her daughter again.

Unspoken but understood was the resignation to the pain of chemotherapy and its unrelenting assault on a body already broken by cancer.

Now she sits in front of me in a hospital bed, pleading for mercy and a bed in my home and I tell her, “Wait, sister. Wait. The work is not yet finished.”

Riverbeds carved in flesh from tears and the secretions of necrotic wounds mark her cheeks and her side, and she nods her head in understanding.

She will endure.

She will wait.

She has no other options.

Her far away home offers witchcraft and lies as a cures for splitting DNA and cells with too many nuclei that multiply and multiply and poison her blood and her lymphatic system. Witchcraft chants and smelly herbs in a dark mud hut and a man dressed in traditional clothing promised her the mass of tissue swelling in her breast would reduce and she gave him her money and her soul and she left feeling empty and used.

Here at the hospital a combination of Fluorouracil, Cisplatin, and pain drip into her swollen forearm. They promise tumor reduction, dead DNA strands, halted cell division, nausea, Nephrotoxicity, loneliness, depression, and homesickness.

“Wait, sister. Wait. The work is not yet finished.”

I stare at my hands after I’ve uttered those words and wonder if there can be any comfort in them.

I have four women staying in my home and I’ve promised beds to two others.

And this sister looks at me and asks for rescue from the bed she sits on. Rescue from a bed covered in old white sheets, stained with blood, vomit and emotions.

“We are building a home for you my sister.”

Next week we will open the ground of our 40×45 meter square of dirt and begin laying sand, stones, and concrete into it so that this dear sister can come and live here too.

Last week we invited four women out of the hospital into Casa Ahavá and I met 4 others whom I could not invite.

We are building a home. I hope it finishes soon.