When you feel the world stop, like when someone tells you your child has cancer, you can almost tangibly feel your heart instantly drop into the pit of your stomach. I think it might actually stop beating for just a moment. And then there’s your lungs. You are suddenly more aware of the air coming in and out of them than you have ever been in your entire life. Your eyes become slightly blurred, unable to see anything in their peripheral. And you think for a moment the sky might actually be falling.
But what you realize weeks, even months later is that the sky is still up there. It’s still just as blue as ever with white dreamy clouds and sunsets. It holds birds and butterflies and even planes taking anxious passengers on vacation. What you learn is that not only does the sky never fall, the world never really stops either. The only thing that happens is that your world stops, or in this case mine.
This week, as I realized we’d be spending the majority of four consecutive weeks in the hospital, I finally realized that our life is on permanent hold. Locked in a hospital room watching your child try to overcome something that’s trying to take her life isn’t living. I spend countless hours staring at walls wondering how and why we got there. Yesterday, finally having to to have a break, I went outside for a walk. I started walking and then couldn’t bring myself to stop. I couldn’t bare to go back inside. It occurred to me as I was walking that perhaps I could just keep walking forever. Maybe if I kept walking I would never have to go back into this hospital. If I walked long enough perhaps I would find my way back to our hospital room on June 25th and this time when we saw the scan the cancer wouldn’t be there. Then things could go back to the way they were before. Then she wouldn’t have more of hell before her.
I walked for what seemed like forever and then it started raining. I guess even though physics wouldn’t have allowed it anyway, God didn’t want me trying. As crazy as it sounds, it made me angry that He wouldn’t let me try. I vowed to not speak to Him for the rest of the day. Which is fine, I guess. I have nothing to say. I’m too angry to be sad and too sad too be angry.
The only feeling stronger than our own pain is compassion for another. Yesterday I saw a father carrying his daughter in his arms down in the main lobby. Her limp body lay stretched acrossed his leaning into his chest for support. Her bald little head was the war wound of her fight. It broke me. It is an image I cannot forget. I felt such strong compassion for them. I felt broken by what she was experiencing. I felt heaviness in my heart. Her suffering stopped me in the midst of my self pity. But then I remembered. Izzy has cancer too.
It took me hours to make sense of it. See, I don’t feel that when I see Izzy. The pain we feel in the midst of our suffering is different because it is our own. It isn’t wrong to feel it, but it comes from the SELF. But the pain we feel when we see someone else’s suffering is completely altruistic, untainted and pure. It is Christ in us. And yes, even though I wasn’t talking to God yesterday I could appreciate that.
So here we are. Yes, our world has stopped. But what I most learned from that image of the little girl yesterday is that Christ has stopped here with us. He sees us the same way I saw the little girl. He is moved by compassion. And he is carrying both of our limp bodies in His arms and will continue to as we complete our journey to hell and back.