Today my father told me that he has cancer. It’s not his first run in with the disease. Maybe 10 years ago he fought bladder cancer, endured the treatment, and won. He’d gone back for regular checkups and monitoring to make sure everything was still OK.
Last week he told me that the doctors had found a spot on his lung. I didn’t think much of it. He’s 83, long out of warranty, who knows what it could be. I didn’t worry. I prayed. Every night I’d pray for the doctors to be granted wisdom so they could make the correct diagnosis and treatment for whatever was ailing my dad.
Today I found out that he has lung cancer, and that it was in his lymph nodes too. Now moments like these, I’d like to think that I’m the type of guy who would take a step back, take stock, a deep breath, and not worry. Instead I lost my breath, stared at my phone in shock for what felt like minutes. I went to go step outside and call, a friend stopped me.
She said “don’t call him like this. You panicking won’t help anyone.” She was right, so I sat and wept for a few minutes. I mentioned how much I’d like a drink right now, how in the past when things got difficult or emotionally draining, I’d break out the bourbon and sip it until I was either asleep, or no longer cared about what was bothering me.
I sat, got my bearings, and called my father. He told me what was going on, we laughed, he seemed in good spirits and mentioned that “acceptance” was part of why he felt the way he did. He didn’t sound worried or scared, although I’m sure that had to be in there somewhere. He was having something to eat and one of his “cheap beers.”
I got off the phone with him, and prayed. If he can keep his cool, so can I. I’d had plans to attend the leadership pathway course at Grace tonight, so I hopped in the truck and started driving. I think I made it about a mile before I started weeping again. I used to be a guy who sat on his emotions, I’m definitely not that guy anymore.
As I drove and the tears fell, I prayed. I thanked God for giving me 40 years with my father. I asked God to please give me a few more. “I’m not ready” I said. I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready. When I was a little kid, I noticed that my parents were older than the other kids parents. They had me when they were in their early 40’s. I was a surprise.
It’s not what little kids should think about, mortality. Kids should focus on having fun, getting in trouble, breaking bones, making mistakes. Instead, every time my father slept I’d make sure he was still breathing. A couple years ago, I was helping my father split wood and we had one of those heart to heart conversations that we could only have as men.
I mentioned to him what I just said you you all, that as a kid, I knew my parents were older. Sitting here at 40, they really weren’t, but to a little kid like me, they were ancient. He started to get choked up as he spoke of his father. His father passed when he was 35 years old. At 83 he’s outlived pretty much every member of his extended family.
Still, he told me about how when his father slept, when he was a child – he’d constantly check to make sure that his dad was still breathing. For the first 30 years or so of my life I went head to head with my father. I didn’t quite “get” him. He was very old fashioned. What my friends got away with, I was chastised heavily for.
It wasn’t until I read his autobiography that I started to understand him. Raised in an orphanage because his parents couldn’t afford to raise him themselves, he grew up in a way and a place that no child should ever have to. What he endured at the hands of the church would be enough for anyone to walk away from the church and God.
Every other Sunday growing up, he brought me to Church. I didn’t get it. I sat in the pews and played with my hot wheels. As I got older I’d sit and listen, but I still didn’t get it. Sit, stand, kneel, shake hands, morals, structure, life. When I finally got a taste of freedom at 18, I ran away from the church like I was on fire.
Even in my rebellion though, I never really got into too much trouble. The morals and structure my father handed down to me was soaked into my very bones. Decades later when I would turn back to God and give my life to Jesus Christ, my father looked on. He used to ask me why he never heard God like I did. I didn’t really have an answer.
Still, I wanted everyone to feel the revival that I felt. My parents had been drifting from their church for some time, but part of me hoped that if I could testify to them of my experiences, and the place where I found God waiting for me, that they might just join me. 83 years old and my father never heard God, until that Sunday where he joined me.
“Stay with me” the pastor said. “Stay on the phone. Stay with me.” Stay with God. He’s almost there. He had just discussed the trials of Job and the hardships he endured… how through them all he never let go of his faith in God. As the tears welled up in my fathers eyes, he heard God that day, and finally knew that God hadn’t forgotten about him.
I see what my father went through all these years, and how despite every obstacle, he maintained his faith in God… and I finally understood him. He raised me the best he could. He raised me with hope and faith, and he lived to see me called back to Christ. Thank you God. Thank you Jesus.
Thank you for every single blessed day with my father, good, bad, and in between. Thank you.