Skip to Content

Author: Jon

Carpenter

A Jon Post

I don’t think of a person’s soul as see-through.
I think of it like lumber.
Some is hard, some soft. Some is flexible, some splinter and crack under strain.
But I can’t usually see through it.
Watching what cancer does to a person reveals the lie that a soul cannot be torn so thin it can be transparent and bare.
Cancer does not work with a soul the way a saw works with lumber. There are no quick clean cuts, no straight edges.
Cancer scrapes along a person’s soul the way a hand plane pulls ribbons from a pine plank.
Irene arrived in our home 4 months ago and I’ve witnessed ribbon upon see-through ribbon be planed from her person by this disease.
You would be so proud of my wife and the 24 hour care she lavishes on our precious Irene.
When the hand plane of cancer stripped Irene of her ability to walk more than 20 feet without stopping to catch her breath, Layne was there to hold her upright and wrap her in arms of love.
When Irene’s lesion on her jaw clamped her teeth shut and refused her the ability to eat normal food, Layne was there to endlessly prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner in unceasing variety, all liquefied and made edible for Irene’s handicapped state.
When Irene began losing vision due to tumors and lesions in her brain, Layne was there to spend the hours it took for swelling to subside and vision to return.
When the hand plane passed again over Irene’s ability to take her medication and morphine, Layne faithfully ensured that to the minute her 24-hour medication needs were met.
When Irene’s pain management required hours and hours by her side praying, talking to her to get her mind off the agony, and holding her hand through mind-numbing suffering.
You would be so proud.
And you would marvel at how thin a person can be shredded by this disease.
Maybe to a carpenter this all makes sense. But to the lumber it just hurts.
It’s easy to tell the lumber that in the end, it is made beautiful, but that don’t seem to matter down here.
Ribbons of transparent soul keep shedding from our precious Irene.
Please pray that the carpenter finishes His work soon.


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.