A Father's Journey
I have been asked numerous times how John is holding up through all of this, but I have been careful about the information that I give about him on this blog. I have made a point to be very transparent with all of you about my own thoughts and feelings, but I have wanted to be careful with John's heart. It is one thing to allow others to see through you, but another thing entirely to "lift the blinds" so to speak, on someone else's heart. I asked John this evening if he ever wanted to update the blog and give you all a glimpse into his feelings and experiences throughout this ordeal. He said that he wouldn't mind getting on sometime, but it has just been too difficult to find the time lately. He's stretched so thin these days. He is willing to share his heart as well, and the thing that thrills me more than I can say - he trusts me to do it for him.
O.k., here goes... I've been told that I need to post a tear-drop rating on these entries, so consider yourself warned on this one...
I read a quote some time ago by a man named Joseph Addison (I collect random quotes) that said "In love to our wives there is desire, to our sons there is ambition, but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express." I saw this unexplainable emotion in John the very first time he looked at Ellie, eyes full of tears, as he took in the sight of his tiny daughter. I have seen it many times over the years...this tenderness that is reserved soley for her. And I felt the full force of it a few months ago in the emergency room, in the middle of the night when I held John as he shook with sobs, saying "please God, no...not my little girl...please not her." You see, John is not a man who cries easily, but neither is he one to shy away from strong emotion when it is warrented. This is perhaps one of the qualities I admire most about him. I will never forget the look on John's face a couple of weeks after we learned of Ellie's cancer when we met a man at the Ronald McDonald House. This man told us that his daughter had just come through heart surgery. John, feeling a connection to this other father, asked "doesn't it feel sometimes like you have no more tears left to cry?" The man looked a little blank and slightly flustered as he replied "um...well...you know, I don't exactly cry, but...well, you know, It's hard." I watched as John worked to keep the astonishment off of his face (and didn't quite succeed). I wanted to throw my arms around him on the spot. My unbelievably open husband was not able to even conceive of a world where a father could not manage to squeeze out a single tear for his little girl. In his world this was unthinkable. During those first couple of weeks, John did what I have come to think of as "speed-grieving". He went to the darkest place first...the place where he actually felt the shock of losing Ellie completely.
And then, just when I thought that he might not be able to recover, John emerged from that dark place so strong that it took my breath away! His trust in God was rock solid, and he had an amazing ability to think and plan. John is the one who re-introduced me to the Twila Paris CD that I quoted in earlier postings. In those early days in the hospital, there were many times that John had to leave late at night or early in the morning to get home to be able to work. He would arrive home to an empty house and put on that CD. There was one song in particular that soothed his wounded heart like none other, and he later shared it with me. This song has kind of become our family's theme song.
Do I Trust You Medly
Words and music by: Twila Paris
Sometimes my little heart can't understand
What's in Your will, what's in Your plan
So many times I'm tempted to ask You why
But I can never forget it for long
Lord what You do could not be wrong
So I believe You even when I must cry
Do I trust You, Lord? Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord? Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart, You can read my mind
And You've got to know that I'd rather die
Than to lose my faith in the One I love
Do I trust You, Lord?
Do I trust You?
Lord, I'm keeping my eyes on You
Following You, following You, my Lord
I'm keeping my eyes on You
Following You, following You
I won't look ot the left or right
My only goal is keeping you in my sight
We will glorify the King of kings
We will glorify the Lamb
We will glorify the Lord of lords
Who is the great I Am
I will trust You, Lord, when I don't know why
I will trust You, Lord, 'till the day I die
I will trust You, Lord, when I'm blind with pain
You were God before and You'll never change
I will trust You, I will trust You
I will trust You, Lord
That song just spoke words of strength and comfort directly into John's heart. It gave voice to his fears and weaknesses and then direction for where his focus should be, and then the incredible perspective that we are to have that God's glory is the ultimate goal in all. John then passed this song on to me, and together we have been comforted.
The days have blended into weeks, and now months. Sometimes the days are long with work for John, and often he is pulled in several directions at once. Sometimes exhaustion sets in. Most of all, I have seen John go into warrior mode. No matter what else is happening, he keeps Ellie's welfare and the good of our family in the forefront of his mind and heart. I have been in awe of his ability to make hard decisions...and uncomfortable decisions with all of the unflinching strength of a general. It must be a man-thing. I just cannot seem to separate my emotions from the mix. I have never been more thankful than I am now to have this man as the head of our home. His protection and care for our family has allowed me to be myself and be unburdened with things that are outside of my capabilities. He is our very own tender warrior.
And so, after almost 13 years, this husband of mine continues to show me new sides of himself. By far the most endearing, and at the same time the thing that breaks my heart, is John's ability to absorb the hardest parts of Ellie's cancer out of love for her. He subjects himself to watching her bone marrow biopsies just so that she can see his face and hear his voice during the entire thing...whether she remembers it later or not. He is the one to give her daily injections so that he can be as careful as possible, even though he hates doing it. And in this he also protects me from having to do it.
I love this man, who's work toughened hands are the most beautiful and loving that I have ever seen. I respect this man, who has the courage to be tender. In the words from Song of Solomon: "this is my beloved, and this is my friend."