Saturday, December 23, 2006

The gift of another day

A year ago today I sat in the passenger seat of my personal physicians' SUV as her and her husband drove my crying, blubbering self to the ER. I was 14 weeks pregnant and would later that night -with my husband by my side- learn that our baby had died. We chose to refuse admittance to the hospital (& surgery) that night and return home to celebrate Christmas. We had yet to even share the news of this pregnancy to the "public" (it had only been months since the death of our daughters during birth), and definitely didn't want to share the news of an impending miscarriage before Christmas. We dodged questions, escaped rubbings of the tummy and were generally short with people in our efforts to enjoy Christmas day. Two days later we returned to the hospital for what would be one of the physically worst few days of my life.

A week ago I sat across the table from that very same personal physician (who also happens to be a very dear friend) and watched and listened as her and her husband wondered aloud if their 19 year old son will live to see THIS Christmas; will he live to see tomorrow? Last Friday (12/15) they were told that his cancer had spread greatly and that they should take things day by day, thinking in terms of "weeks" at the most. Although our situations differ greatly, and I am not even pretending to claim I can even remotely understand what they are going through – I can tell you this: they spoke of the hope of knowing that they will be reunited with him once again in heaven and while that's comforting, it doesn't calm the storms and sheer pain that rage in one's heart while losing a part of your family, a part of you. Of all that was said the other day – THAT sentiment I CAN understand. I've given birth, I've endured the pains of labor, and I've stood in a room trying to choose a casket for a child. I CAN'T wrap my mind around what these parents are dealing with – they have 19 years of memories, of love. I can't fathom what they've had to endure over the last nine months, from when they first learned their son had cancer, till today. For the most part I will honestly admit that I don't understand how they manage to get up each morning and put one foot in front of the other, but when that statement was spoken I felt God had given me the smallest glimpse into their grief. It was something I could grasp, and I can't tell you how it broke my heart.

Every time they "thank us" for doing this or that I feel so unworthy. We haven't done anything! What I want to do is march into the hospital and DEMAND that somebody (anybody) FIX him! It often times makes me think of those who where OUR "A-team". The step-dads who told us not to worry about the ridiculous cost of Forest Lawn; Jeeven who stood guard at my hospital room and demanded that every single medical personal who entered the room knew all the details of our situation; Bek who stood at my side for hours straight being my breathing coach – she literally did not leave my side for like 20 hours!; my mom who let us sleep on her living room floor for weeks after the twins died because I somehow thought if I gather the people I love under one roof nothing tragic could happen to them; my dad who drove 10 hours just to visit me for 1 hour; Jeremy who was in line during the reception line thing at the funeral (who's stupid idea was that anyway?) – he was the first one I felt "safe" with in that line, and I can attest to the fact that there's nothing like a hug from those who are your "safety", your family; my HP sisters who understood and had a prayer schedule to cover each hour of the day of the funeral; Kevin who sat at the hospital that night & took care of the mortuary arrangements for us when the hospital was impatiently giving us timelines to take care of things; Maria, who on occasion leaves little gifts for the girls at the cemetery; Jenni, who handmade me precious ornaments which are hanging our tree right now; the Negretes, who always had a room (& food) ready for us when the anxiety and quietness of our own home sank in; the people who surrounded me in my hospital bed and held my babies hands; the nurses who cried with us; and there are so many more moments that have forever created an imprint in our hearts. We have stacks of cards and gifts. To me, these moments are more valuable and are more full of love then any other human act could be. When ever I think of what I can do for this family, I think of these moments & wonder if those people realize exactly HOW much they have ministered to us? I suppose that is what everybody desires: the comforting arms of friends and those people who know exactly what you need, when you need it without you having to ask (because often times you don't even know what it is yourself). I am so thankful that the Maxells have a group of people who love them, and I am so awed at the moments their friends have given them. They have a few amazing people surrounding them and I am touched to tears when they share with us what others have done for them (and I know a few of you whom I am speaking about are reading this!). More then that I am blessed that we are able to have a small role in this, though I feel it's not enough.

I am not sure why all of this has been on my mind so much lately, and usually we don't share this sort of stuff here, but I thought this was worth posting. The "relationship" is a very important thing, and should not come second to ANYTHING. Community is a most valuable asset.

On Wednesday I received the sweetest voice message one could receive. It was from the mom (aka, our physician) & it stated (and I am quoting bits & pieces of her message) "I just want to let you know the good news. It's hard to explain, but somehow there was a misunderstanding and somehow they misinterpreted the results of the scan. I just left the hospital and HE DOES NOT have tumor in his brain stem. The other tumor is still there, but it has not spread and it is not moving upward. I can't believe it!" HUH? How incredible is that? How much clearer can an answer to prayer be? One minute you're told your son will not live to see the New Year, and days later you're told it's not true – things are looking FAR better then what was once thought! I can't even imagine!

I overheard a lady in line behind me at the store say (and I kid you not) "I'm still single again this Christmas, but I am not worried Рit's all in God's hand, He has it under control". Going through my mind was MAN, I WISH TOM WERE HERE :) Рthere's a clich̩ Рa little bit of "Christianese" he could pick apart. And yes, yes, it's true. God IS in control, but I think so often we use that as "a genie in a bottle, I get my wish" form of theology. Understanding that God is in control is understanding that we can be called to suffering and to oppression. We are not in a little "safety net" because we are Christians. Using the phrase "God is in control" means that you fully understand that you may be single the rest of your life, that your babies may die during child birth, that your son may not live to see his 21 st birthday Рyou understand that, and as frightening as it is you know that God is still God anyway. He is still in control and He still was born in that manager for YOU and He still died on that cross for YOU. He loves you no less; in fact you may have been chosen to endure what ever you face because He has picked you to do amazing kingdom building things that could not have been done as mightily without the trials at hand.

A few weeks ago the father commented to me that someone had said to him "This is why we walk by faith and not by sight. Because when we open our eyes and we take a look around, this world is an ugly, scary place. Only with our eyes closed to the world and focused on the cross (and the manager) can we continue to proceed down the path we're on".

Up until now we've hesitated blogging about this family, though they've been a great part of our hearts, because we've felt that it wasn't our news to share and wanted to give them their privacy. But I have to tell you that they are beautiful and I know that God created each of them with the utmost care – he has ordained their days. And I don't understand it all here, and I can't imagine why a parent must endure this valley they are in. They are very special people and we are better for knowing them.

As for Jason and I, this year we celebrate God's provisions and we excitedly look forward to the things that will come. We celebrate the gift of opportunity and the hope of taking chances. We celebrate knowing that God is in control, regardless of the outcome or of suffering. And we celebrate God coming to us and the magic of the manager. The Maxell family; today I imagine they are celebrating each smile, each hug, each moment spent together. They are cherishing each word spoken and the gift of another day. I can't understand or fathom, or even think about it without tears streaming down my face. The birth of Christ is a magnificent thing, and I've watched this family bestow joy and hope and kindness on others the last few weeks like never before. This Christmas they are praising God for the mistake (the miracle). I don't know about you but it sort of puts things in perspective.
What are you celebrating this Christmas?


  1. Noel has been so much in my thoughts today also. It's hard to believe that a year has passed by since that dreay night at LBM. My heart continues to break for your loss and I pray for God's comfort to your heart daily. You are an amazing young woman Traci and I thank God for the honor of being your mother. I am in AWE of how you have allowed God to use you over the past few years and filled with JOY at each new endeavor you pursue. May God bless you & Jason (and Andrew,too) with another addition to your family in 2007.

  2. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your heart. Than you for reminding us what it is to be Christian during this season.
    Suzanne (snoozanne hp)

  3. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Oh Traci,

    I'm so glad the ornament made its way to your tree. It is beautiful.

    You have such a wonderful, sweet, and triumphant spirit. You inspire me! Seriously!


  4. Traci
    You always have something to say that reminds me of what it really means to have faith. Yes, God is in control. Thank you for your daily inspirations.
    Happy 2007....5 1/2 hours and counting:-)

  5. rebekah4:50 PM

    you're amazing girl, your insight as usual always blesses me in such a profound way. it IS my pleasure to know such a wonderful woman!