Sunday evening I packed our bags for the week we would spend in Cincinnati. There were bags of clothes, bags of toys, bags of blankets and pillows. I have grown accustomed to the systematic way of packing for these trips. The things you bring to make you feel at home even though when you finally climb in bed at night, the pain that has been hiding so deep throughout the day emerges just long enough to remind you that you are not.
I reached to my night stand to grab a few books and heard the shuffling of papers between them as I carried them to my suitcase. Random things I had placed there. Important things I sometimes use to mark a page of scripture or a reading in a devotional. It wasn’t until I packed the books and walked back around the corner of the bed that I saw the thing that had fallen from the papers onto the floor. It lay next to my night stand innocently as if it were just another piece of paper but it was not. I stopped, staring at it on the carpet, my heart racing and I felt the thing I had not felt entirely that much of. I felt something that had been lurking at the surface of my soul for weeks but had not been able to come out. That evening, as I stood in my bedroom with bags packed for our first week of chemotherapy and I stared at the little purple card on the floor, anger began to consume me.
I knelt down to pick it up and like any other crazy person I turned around and looked in the mirror waving it around. I began to yell at The Lord. “Is this a joke? Is this funny to you. Of all the things I could possibly find on this night, why this? THIS is just cruel” I was pissed. I walked back to my night stand and slammed it down. My hands were trembling. My heart was racing. I continued to pack but my eyes kept finding their way back to the purple card.
Izzy collected Beads of Courage during her treatment. She has hundreds. She received a bead for everything. A yellow one for every overnight stay in the hospital, a red one for every blood transfusion. On our last day in the hospital she received her Purple Heart of Courage, symbolizing the completion of treatment.
It came with a small purple card that explained it’s significance. She kept the bead to put with her others and I kept the card to remember all the Lord had delivered her from. To remind me of where we had been. To remind me it was over. As I stared at this, of all the nights in the world, I grew angrier and angrier. Our journey was far from over.
This first week of chemotherapy went beautifully. Other than being a little tired while the IV chemo was running she has been completely her normal self. The first day was the most emotional for me. It was so hard walking back in and meeting eyes with those staff members who were so sad to see us back. They remember so much of Izzy’s time here. She left an unforgettable mark on the hearts of so many. But Izzy has managed to block out almost all of her season here. She remembers virtually none of it. I attribute part of that to a covering of grace that’s over her and part of it to all the drugs she was on while she was here. Either way, I’m glad she does not remember the horrors that I can never forget.
This weekend she wants to cut off all her hair. She is anxious for it to fall out and we expect the process to begin soon. I don’t want that process to have any control so if she’d like to do it now I will gladly give her the scissors so she can take all the control herself.
That has been one of the hardest things for me this week. Every time I run my fingers through her hair I wonder if a strand will come out with them. I want so desperately to touch it and yet I am afraid. Afraid to disturb it, afraid to initiate the process. It’s nonsense, I know, but I haven’t even been able to brush it much because I don’t want to pull too hard. I cannot bare to see the strands, strands that have given us such joy with each centimeter of growth, fall out.
Relapse. There are few things I can think of more cruel. For family, for patient, for friends. Just as you finally start to enjoy living outside the shadows of fear, it hits, dragging everyone in it’s tracks through the dust. But these aren’t the things we get to choose. What we can choose is how we respond.
We can choose to respond with grace and determination and we can choose to not stop fighting. To not stop hoping. To not stop asking the Lord for His deliverance again. And to not stop asking Him for another purple card.
We can even choose to believe that maybe it was no coincidence the purple card fell out of my bible that night I was packing before this first week of treatment. Just maybe The Lord knows how desperately I needed to be able to hope. And just maybe he wanted me to see the purple card so that I could have the hope to ask for another one.
Blessings on you today and LIFE FOR Izzy.