August 4th and 5th
My family and I were winding down the last couple days of our 20th Anniversary trip to Kaua’i. We’d kept in touch with Mom and Dad every day, trying to find the balance of sharing fun pictures with them, while also not forgetting that they had this unknown fear hanging over them. We knew the biopsy had taken place, and it was just a matter of time to get the results back.
The last day of our trip came, and we hopped on the plane and were headed back to the mainland. When we landed at our first stop in Seattle, we had to run to our next flight and almost missed it. We were sitting on the plane, already taxiing, but I wanted first to text Mom to check in and asked her if they got results back.
She replied with “Can you talk?”
That wasn’t the reply I wanted. I knew something was wrong. I replied, “no, we’re sitting on the plane.”
At this point, she knew she had to tell me, but she didn’t want it to be over text.
“Ok well I didn’t want to text this, but Dad has lung cancer.”
I couldn’t believe it. My Dad is healthy, strong, and full of life. This wasn’t computing. My family was sitting across the aisle, and I didn’t want them to know just yet. It’s hard enough to know something when you can’t do anything about it, but to know that on an airplane when you still have one more flight to go and you aren’t able to talk to anyone, or be free to cry, I just didn’t want to put them through that.
We landed in San Diego, and we were being picked up by a good friend who would be excited to see us and hear about the trip, so I had to wait yet another couple hours. Finally, at home, I told my wife, and we cried together.
It turns out that Mom and Dad had actually been to the doctor the day before and found out, but of all the days we were in Kaua’i, that happened to be the only day that we didn’t check in. Mom said she was actually hoping we wouldn’t check in, just so she wouldn’t have to tell us and so that we could enjoy our last day in Kaua’i.
So here we were, just in shock, not even knowing what to think. Then the very next day, August 5th, Mom and Dad called us, and the news was even worse. Dad’s cancer was Stage IV, and it was inoperable. The fluid from his lungs was tested and had cancer in it, which meant that it had already spread to his blood.
We all cried on the phone. Dad cried, too, but Dad was oddly calm.
This caught me off guard, because my Dad was a worrier. The man who was known for constantly worrying about everything that was out there in the world, is now calm despite everything going on inside of his own body. This wasn’t normal.
He told us numerous times that he is grateful for the life he has been given, that he couldn't have asked for anything more than what he has, and that he knows he has the best person (my Mom) at his side to be with through all of this.
And Dad made it clear: he's not mad, he's not depressed, but he's grateful for what God has given him.
Of course, as a husband, a father, and a man, he worries about his kids, his wife, and all of those things, but he kept saying, "but I know I don't have to worry about that, God will take care of it." We talked a lot about his emotions, his spiritual life, and his worries, and there was already a deepened faith and trust he has in God's goodness, plan, sovereignty, and purposes. Obviously, news like this would cause anyone to seek more deeply into their faith or future, but so often, that results in bitterness, anger, or disillusionment. But this wasn’t the case for him.
Something was going on inside him, and it wasn’t just cancer.
He knew those feelings will go up and down. He said that already a couple times in those first couple days when he's alone in his art studio sometimes his mind gets the best of him, but he said that he had already been given a greater and deeper awareness of the ultimate goodness of God that gives him the ability to trust Him and know that God is with him through all of this, even the most fearful and painful and saddest parts.
I was shocked and so grateful for that to be Dad's outlook so early on. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that this outlook would remain, but I was so encouraged that he had also said that he had “already understood God's love for me in these first few days more than I ever have understood.”
Mom told us later that day that they were sitting on the couch together, and Dad put his hand on Mom’s hand, and said, “I just want to make sure I am right with God.”
He continued and said, “I mean, I believe in Jesus, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus is God’s Son, I believe he died for my sins, I believe He has forgiven me, I just don’t have the excitement that everyone else has.”
Despite this new awareness of God’s goodness in all of this, there was still an ever-present conflict Dad had. He believed in the facts. He believed it in his mind. He believed in the information. But for Dad, he knew that something had never really clicked, and so he compared himself. He felt on the outside. And he didn’t know how to change it.
Part 3: The True Vine