Sometimes when I’ve been gone from writing for a long time, it’s because there’s just too much going on in life. And sometimes it’s because there’s too much going on in someone else’s life. Sometimes a friend is being hit with so much, I feel like everything I would possibly say is too trivial to bother writing. One day I’ll learn to write through it, because I think it would help me process it. I’m just not there yet. I was thinking about that this morning, and this sad Simon & Garfunkel song came to my mind. Mainly the “Hello Darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again” line. Sometimes you have to be still. Sometimes you have to process. This has taken me over a week to actually write. After several weeks of thinking. Usually I write for maybe 20 minutes. But I feel so challenged on just how to write about this, that I keep typing and deleting. Typing and deleting.
My friend Lora has cancer.
When I was in late elementary school, Lora’s dad became our new pastor. As redheads, we had an instant bond. She was just a year younger than me, and lived just a couple blocks away, so we had a lot of fun together. Stuffed animal throwing wars, and gymnastics in the basement. That sort of thing. After a few years, he took a different church and they moved away again. Every few years I’d hear what they were up to. Married with two girls, like I was, but with slightly older girls. Then the marriage didn’t work out. When we moved to Wisconsin, we were an hour from her. So we met for a day at a children’s museum. There’s something really special about kids of childhood friends playing together. I keep track of her on Facebook. I was constantly in awe of all the special things she did with her girls. Family camps. Community theater. As many Laura Ingalls Wilder related things as she could manage. Heck, she had chickens. I felt like I barely managed to keep up with the maintenance of life, and these girls were having a childhood chock full of fun and goodness. It made me want to figure out a way to put some fun & goodness in my girls’ childhood.
In June of 2010, a tumor in Lora’s shoulder was confirmed cancerous. I thought, “Phew. A little surgery and some chemo and/or radiation — good thing they caught it.” For the next year or so, she went through different surgeries and different treatments. It would look like it was gone and then come back. Only it probably never actually left. As it turns out, this is not the kind of cancer where we say, “Well, good to catch it in time.” This cancer is cruel and awful and ugly. It’s not going anywhere. Lora has many fast-growing and painful tumors. She’s down to just a couple of positions that don’t cause a lot of pain.
I can’t explain how many ways my heart breaks for her and her girls. I want to be so angry at God for allowing this to happen to her, but I can’t be. Lora comes back at it full of grace and humor and honesty and faith. She still loves God. And she knows he’s holding her close. She knows he’s holding her girls. They’ve started asking questions like, “Will you be here this summer?” The doctor has said that Christmas is “beyond the horizon” that he sees.
I cry for her. Often. I cry for her girls. Her parents and friends. I’m sad over what she will miss. I’m amazed at the strong children she’s raised. I’m thankful for what she’s done. Sometimes I put myself in her shoes. This makes me want to drop all of this mundane daily maintenance and work, and take my girls on some kind of cross-country or cross-world trip. Who cares about multiplication? Who cares about spelling? Who cares about making money? Our lives are too short and precious to be wasted on all of that.
I know we can’t live that way. We can’t just get rid of everything we own and live in an RV touring the country. Gas is pretty expensive, and RVs use an awful lot of it. We can’t eat ice cream for dinner EVERY night. But I don’t want to just live in the mundane maintenance either. I want to be more intentional about putting some fun in our lives. Making some memories. Even if we are given long lives, childhood is finite. I don’t want all my girls’ memories to be of cleaning the playroom.
I can’t wrap this up in a neat little package. There’s nothing neat about it. If you believe in prayer, would you say some for Lora and her sweet girls? I’m still praying for a miracle.