Two years ago today, I placed my life in the hands of God–and a capable surgeon with a fantastic medical team. I did not know if I would wake up on this side of heaven or not. That liver of mine did well in growing enough to handle removing a huge portion of it and there were no major complications. I remember coming to and knowing that the recovery room light was not the Light. I cannot ever really find words for that moment–incredulous, grateful, awestruck, stunned, disbelief–do not quite capture the essence of the mix of emotions. As my eyes opened and focused, I knew I had received this great gift of life. The thousands–no exaggeration–of prayers lifted for me by strangers, friends and family had gotten God’s attention and mercifully I was given a precious opportunity to remain here a while.
I was recently in the Canadian Rockies, or at least the foothills. I could not help but think of the first two verses of Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. I continue to trust that I must keep my eyes lifted to this magnificent Maker. How do I encapulate what these past two years have meant to me? I would like to say that I am a completely different person who does not ever forget to pray and thank God now but that would not be true. I am grateful as I always have been and some days hours pass before I offer my thanks to my Maker. In those moments, these past two years have been very real. The whole experience has changed me profoundly and yet not. I have not become more saintly; I remain ever so salty. I still disappoint myself and others. I struggle to discern my purpose in the time that remains. Yet I watch as the sunlight glints off a window at sunset, or smile at the purple flowers that spring up at this time of year, or marvel as I fill my lungs with breath. Now, as always, I notice but now, I will stop and watch that miracle unfold right before my eyes. My soul cries out: Stop! Look! Enjoy. I do not want to take anything for granted and I am sorry when I do.
I am acutely aware that each day now I open and unpack is a pure gift. The medical team did their work. God agreed to let me stay for whatever reason (still to be determines). I was given a year to survive when the cancer returned. I have surpassed that. I did not expect to see my 56th birthday which soon arrives. The surgeon took a great risk in doing the operation and I was all in. Something in my psyche has changed dramatically because not every goodbye is heart-wrenching. At first whenever I visited far away family and friends, I would cry, even weep, at the thought that I might not see them again before dying. Now, I have accepted that I have no control over what will happen and what God continues to do with my life. I just know that my task is to live each day to the best of my ability and to try to joyously attend to each blessing before me. Being told that I have a terminal illness has not changed the fact that I still have bad days. In fact, today, I sort of had a meltdown about something. As I talked with someone in benefits, I heard the emotion in my voice. This lovely staff person who I have yet to meet lifted my gaze back to those mountains. She often makes me laugh and I could tell she knew that the stress of what I was experiencing at the moment was a concern.
I do not comprehend the complexities of prayer or God’s plans. I am grateful when prayers seem to be answered in odd and wonderful ways. Why am I still here while someone else may have bled to death in a similar operation? I am no more deserving than others, of that I am very certain. A thousand prayers may have been lifted for someone else with different results. I know I do not believe in an indifferent God or a God who is a coin-flipper. Heads this one stays; tails this one goes. No, that is not a God that makes sense to me. I believe in the power of prayer and yet I cannot explain why it works for some and not for others. God who created those majestic mountains knows the plan. I am invited to trust what is unfolding and know that at some point we all meet our Maker face-to-face.
In these past two years, I have rejoiced abundantly and sorrowed deeply. Life has proceeded in a routine manner and yet…..not. I am a different person on many levels. As that liver has grown so have I. I sense I have gotten used to being in a new skin too. I do not always live in the disease state of mind, but I do sense that I live more on the precipice of awareness that time is precious. Who do I want to spend time with? What do I need to say? How do I embrace this moment? How do I continue to live with passion? What skills can I still utilize? How can I serve, love and honour God as I am now? What still needs to be stripped away before I stand humbly before my Maker? What lessons are left to learn? What wisdom is still to be shared with others? This day is almost over and the frustrations from earlier in the day were replaced by a delightful outing with friends. I am feeling calm and content. These past two years continue to show me life here is still utterly amazing. I keep my gaze heavenward, knowing that the Maker will help me with what it is I need. Perhaps I will not recognize it when it appears, but like those on the road to Emmaus, I will know it at some point and my heart will burn with the joy of having encountered the Maker here on earth.
Where do you lift your eyes up to?
Are you grateful for your life–the blessings, the sorrows, and everything in between?
Maker of heaven and earth, keep my eyes lifted and attentive to you as you move through this world. We are all given the gift of a new day, a new chance, a fresh start. May we use this gift to the best of our ability to praise, reverence and serve you. Amen.