I struggle with this place that we are now, this place of STABLE disease. There are moments of each day were I feel exceeding joy that Izzy is still alive. That she is in school and playing soccer and enjoying being a child. But those moments are always followed by fear of the future and grief of the past. STABLE. It means she’s not sick but she’s not better. It means we get to take a deep breath as we wait to see what’s coming next. But how deeply can you breath when you know there is still a spot, still nodules, still a lesion? These places are not active disease but they are still places.
This picture was taken almost a year ago when Izzy gave a kitten from our litter to our neighbors Tim and Lori. Patches, they called her. In March Tim died from a long battle with pancreatic cancer. In the days leading up to his death Patches was by his side constantly. She was his fearless companion to the end.
The night Tim died I lay in bed with Izzy talking for a very long time. She had the kind of questions most kids have about heaven and leaving our bodies behind. But she also had lots of questions only someone fighting cancer can come up with. Questions I wish my child couldn’t even begin to formulate at 8 years old. She didn’t understand how cancer can move from one place in the body to the next. She couldn’t understand how chemotherapy could stop working. As I lie in bed listening to her my heart raced faster and my lungs took in shorter breaths.
“Did he know he had a cancer you can die from, Mommy?,” she asked, beginning to put the pieces together about this horrible disease. I told her that he did. “Did Miss Lori know?,” she continued, wondering about his wife. I explained that they both knew and had known for a while. “So, if someone has a kind of cancer they can die from, they know it, right?,” she asked and tears began to stream down my cheeks in the darkness. My heart was racing so fast I could feel it in my chest. I couldn’t take in enough air, couldn’t believe she was digging so deep. I didn’t know how to respond but knew that she couldn’t live everyday in the same fear as I.
I cleared my throat and asked God to guide my words, “Yes, baby. People know when they have a kind of cancer they can die from. The doctors tell tell them.” We lay in the darkness for quite sometime before she replied. “I’m glad I don’t have that kind of cancer,” she said and snuggled into me closer. “Me too,” was all I could muster out. What I had said was true, she didn’t have Pancreatic Cancer.
We lay in bed that night and cried together. She cried because Tim was in heaven. She cried because she was sad for Miss Lori and sad for Patches. I cried for that and all the other reasons you can think of. As she began to sob, I began to pray. Prayed for Miss Lori and Patches and all of Tim’s family. Prayed for peace and prayed for God’s presence to surround them. And of course I prayed that God would keep Izzy healthy and strong forever. That He would fill her with His glory and His love for all the world to see.
This weekend we are leaving for Disney World for a week. Like every day of my life right now it will bring an enormity of emotion. I will celebrate that she is alive and running around with the joy of every other child. But I will grieve as I look at the others. I will envy their innocence. The purity that is inside their bodies. And, like always, I will wonder if Izzy will ever get to go back. I will ride rides with her and take photos and wonder if this will be her last trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. I will wonder if there will be a day I have to go back without her.
Weeks after Tim’s death Izzy and I ran into Miss Lori on our evening walk with our little dog, Rosebud. We chatted with her for a bit and then continued down the street. Izzy told me that she thought Miss Lori looked sad and I told her she would probably be sad for a long time because she was learning to live without Tim. We walked in silence as she thought about it.
“Someday she will learn to live without him,” she said. I agreed, helping her pull the dog back to the road. “But you know,” she said with a pause, “that will really be the saddest part of all.”
Emotionally, Izzy is the most stable of us all. She doesn’t know the things the rest of us do and yet she somehow manages to know more than I am ever prepared to hear. Daily she teaches me about life and daily she challenges me to live more fully. For what it’s worth I think she’s right. The saddest part about loss is probably not in the losing but in the living that follows. And I pray daily I never have to learn to live without her.
Blessings on you today, continued grace to Miss Lori and LIFE for Izzy.