Surreal : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream
Yep! That pretty much sums it up…the last 4 weeks have felt very surreal. 4 weeks ago today we had plans to fly home from MN and instead my phone rang and I stepped outside our hotel room to take the call. It was Hannah’s pulmonologist sounding very grim confirming that she did, in fact, have CF and was very ill. As I walked up and down the hall of the 4th floor of that hotel, processing the news that we would be packing up that night to head to the hospital for a 2 week stay, I stepped aside to let a family pass by. I remember thinking at that moment that I was having a very personal conversation within ear shot of strangers and how 3 days before I would have been very uncomfortable with that. Not anymore, though.
Our hotel was a home away from home for many patients of the Mayo Clinic. We met them at breakfast and compared appointment schedules, watched them shuffle down for free afternoon soup in their house shoes, heard their own hushed conversations about treatment options, saw them waiting for the shuttles that left every hour transporting them to and from the Mayo Clinic, watched daddies pulling weak children in wagons full of pillows and witnessed more than a few bald heads and pairs of sunken eyes. In that moment it hit me that we likely had a bond with that family and that they had probably had their own phone call at some point in their journey like the one I was on so what did it matter if they heard mine. Funny how such a sizeable shift in thinking can happen without you even knowing it.
I had talked to God often over the last few years about the fact that our family hadn’t really been personally affected by tragedy, severe sickness or death and how thankful I was for that. Tim and I still had both our parents, our children were relatively healthy, we had both made choices that led to us having a strong marriage and we all loved each other. I was thankful and yet I always felt that at any moment this life of relative bliss was subject to change. I’m not a big worrier by nature and I try very hard to reign my thoughts in and not borrow trouble, but I knew that we weren’t special. That there was no reason we should be exempt from suffering.
Why not us?
Why should Frank have to endure so many surgeries that it was hard to keep count…and not us? Why should Conner have a brain tumor that required Amber and him to have to spend weeks in the hospital…and not us? Why should the teenage boy in the room beside us be slick-headed and bloated from massive doses of steroids…and not us? Why should the family with the very sick baby at the end of the hall have to spend more days at the hospital than at home as a family…and not us? Why should we have friends who have had to bury their babies…and not us?
Why not us?
As I walked in church this past Sunday morning I spotted my friend, one of the ones who we’ve had the pleasure of walking beside in life for two and a half decades, and I made a beeline for her. She's my friend, that for some reason unknown to either one of us, is the one I’m most likely to cry with…and I’m not a big crier. As expected we embraced and both burst into tears, neither one caring that we were a captive audience. She held me and patted me and whispered that she wished we didn’t have to go through this, wished that we didn’t have to watch our baby struggle to breathe and wished that she could take away the pain and the suffering our family as a whole was going through right now. I told her I wished she could, too, but then I pulled back and looked at her and said, “But really…
why not us?”
Months ago Tim had planned to start a new series that very morning entitled, “The Struggle Is Real”, confirming yet again the Lord’s relentless attention to detail. I have no doubt that he could have done an amazing job sharing with our people that the struggle is real and we can struggle well without the events of the last few weeks, but apparently God had other things in mind. Suddenly, here we were as “Exhibit A” in the current examples of suffering. Hannah had been diagnosed with CF in MN, Caleb had been diagnosed with CF the week after our return and my diagnosis would be 2 days and a phone call away as well. Now Tim’s message wasn’t a theory or something he had observed on the pages of scripture or in others intimately walking with the Lord. It was a message shared as a member of the fellowship of suffering.
Do I wish my babies and I didn’t have to become one of the 30,000 people in the US with Cystic Fibrosis? Absolutely! Do I wish Hannah didn’t have to spend hours a day doing treatments just to breathe well? Of course! Do I wish we had immune systems that had the ability to fight off germs instead of falling prey to so many different sicknesses? Without a doubt! But…
why not us?
As my BFF reminded me when we were in the hospital and I was processing the news about Hannah, CF is just a label. It’s a label that helps us identify why we’ve struggled with so many things for so many years. It’s a label that has given us a plan and a protocol for Hannah and will soon do the same for Caleb and me. We’re still the same people and it’s just a label that defines our issues, but does NOT define us!! Will we have hard days ahead? I’m sure we will. There’s a reason they call it suffering! One of my deepest prayers, though, is that we would always remember that God is sovereign and none of this has caught him unawares. We’re going to pray, we’re going to fight and we’re going to struggle well. What we’re NOT going to do is feel sorry for ourselves because really…
why not us?