I have Stage Four cancer. tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Am I supposed to give thanks?
Absolutely! To start with, we’ll have our family together, gathered around the table for laughter and an extra-abundance of food. It does not matter whether I will be here for another Thanksgiving next year — It is this year that counts. Jordan, Beavinn, Sage, Jocelyn: the names of my grand children are more than enough to remind me that life will go on beyond me. Turns out, I’m not the center of the universe!
And I’ve got a rich storehouse of memories. I can’t let myself undervalue a collection of memories which has taken me 75 years to assemble. Some of them are quite small, like the tiny birds who ate bread crumbs from my lips high in the snowy mountains one spring. Some of my memories are monumental, such as the day that I realized God — whose existence I had doubted — had somehow listened to my simple prayer (“God, if you’re up there, please come down and let me see you so I can know”) and transferred me from death to life, from emptiness to an overflowing love. And a few years later, I married a truly remarkable woman: a Registered Nurse from a family of baker’s. How good can it get?
Just as important to me is the future. I know that the grave is nothing more than a stepping stone from this life to the next. The promise found in I John will be fulfilled for me: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Even as I type these words, tears come to my eyes. It is overwhelming to think that I will look Jesus in the eye and be transformed by the experience, transformed to be like him and thereby fulfill the Creator’s original purpose to make us imago dei.
In the light of the past, the present, and the future, cancer (especially at my age) seems pretty trivial And thanksgiving seems so impossible to avoid.
Do I seem to be implying that all my experiences have been and are positive? That’s not the case. I bear the wounds and scars from old hurts, just like anybody else. But, as Catholic priest Henri Nouwen puts it, they have helped me be a “wounded healer,” It’s hard not to have compassion on someone in their suffering when you know exactly how they feel. Though having proven myself unworthy a thousand times over, the Lord has still granted me the incredible privilege and pleasure of being able to help a few people over the years.
So here I sit in my study, surrounded by books and a very good stereo system, counting my blessings, thinking of the wonderful family and friends, all the chances to minister to people around the globe. Not be thankful? Impossible. Thank you, Lord . . .