Thursday, October 23, 2014

The What Ifs

What do you do when unexpected, uninvited, unwelcome company shows up?

The What-Ifs have come for a visit.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. I am as human as the next person. But here, the day before surgery, the questions have begun to infiltrate my brain. And like with every other question I encounter, the only way I know to keep them from becoming cyclical thoughts and taking over, is to answer them.
What if it really is cancer?

Then we attack it with everything we’ve got. Curveball? Hit it and return it with more force than when it was delivered. One step at a time, as it comes. Strap on the armor.
What if it’s worse than they thought and you wake up without a breast?

Then I learn how to wear a prosthesis. And take care of what I have left. Or right, in this case.

What if they remove your breast and your husband decides he doesn’t want you anymore?
Oh, come on! Really? Where are these ridiculous questions coming from? Get outta town!

I am not proud of the questions. But they are there, and I will face them down, one by one. And when they come back again, I will remind them that they have already been answered and therefore are not worthy of a revisit. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But the biggest one? What if I don’t wake up from surgery?

That one demands attention and thought. And preparation.
Here’s where I tell you I love you and am thankful to God for bringing you into my life, how I am grateful for whatever part you have played in this grand production, how it would not have been the same without your input, your encouragement, your smile, your questions, your prayers. I am sincere.

We are eternal beings, housed in mortal flesh. We have a choice as to whether we spend that eternity with God or without Him. I choose to spend it with Him, walking with Him now… and forever. So honestly, I am not afraid of not waking up tomorrow, or any day. Not that I want to leave yet: I have so much work left to do! But if I don’t wake up tomorrow, or after surgery, or next week, please grant me two wishes.
One- Continue my work. Continue God’s work. Feed the hungry. Visit the lonely. Encourage the broken. Magnify the beauty. Shine the light.

Two- Do your own prep work. Be ready. Decide if you will choose to be with God or without Him.

And with that word, I send the What Ifs packing. Take a hike, questions! Go! I hear the mountains are beautiful this time of year.




Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Sung’s  arms hung limp at her sides, her face showing sleepless nights, her eyes dull and blank.  Around her scurried others (Friends? Relatives?)—a thin man, vibrant young woman with a little one tied on her back, small children with gleeful smiles—as they unloaded my trunk.

“Many foods!” exclaimed the vibrant one, adjusting the sling as the baby peered over her shoulder. She lifted and swung the twenty-five pounds of rice easily, gracefully, disappearing into the doorway of the apartment.  Sung still stood.  I smiled, met her eyes, and  placed two chickens in her hands. She looked at them, looked at me, turned woodenly toward the door.

Her husband lay miles away, pierced with tubes and lines attached to blinking, beeping machines, wrapped and bound. The accident had come with great force and greater loss: a disabled bus braking ahead, an attempted merge, blind spot, sideswipe, loss of control-- three dead, two injured.  One moment in the black of night changed everything. And Sung stood bewildered in a foreign land with few who spoke her language, her three small children clamoring around her numb legs.

Another took the chickens from her and Sung suddenly enveloped me in a hug. Tight, real, aching, like a hug from one of my own children. My heart ached. Where was her own mother? Back in the refugee camps? Did she know yet?  I wanted to tell her everything was going to be okay, but the only phrase I knew with anything close to that meaning was kaun deh: “it is good.” And this? This was not good.

The others did quick work, emptying the trunk of collard and turnip greens, cabbage, onions and garlic, mangoes and limes and tart apples. Cartons of eggs were met with oohs and the children squealed at the sight of grapes.  The thin man’s face lit with happiness in recognition (Chiles! he cried) at the bag of red and green cayennes from my garden. Sung warmed when I handed her the box filled with containers of fresh, spicy, homemade vegetable soup.

Thank you, she said. Jesu payt. And I was wrapped in another hug. She held on, made a small sound, held on a little longer.

Jesu payt. It sounds almost like “Jesus paid.” Yes, indeed He did.  Kaun deh.

God bless you, I said. Yes, she replied. Yes. I got in my car to go back to my world, where I never have to worry about where my next meal will come from and where my medical bills are covered and where I understand what the doctor is saying and where, if I really wanted to, I could drive four hours to my mother’s house. And Sung stood on the sidewalk, her hand frozen in mid-air.