It was 2008 when my father was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had his right breast removed. He decided against chemotherapy and instead used medication for a time. However it wasn't many months before he decided and informed my sister and I he was not interested in continuing with the medicine either.
Today as I reflected on the more than three and a half years, I was reminded of the things we faced one year ago. On October 6th of 2010, my sister and I found ourselves in the emergency room with our 84 year old daddy. After a series of radiation treatments to his spine, beginning last September 9th, he'd become dehydrated and experienced his first episode of syncopy. Syncopy involves very low blood pressure and causes one to pass out. He had already had one incident, falling and being burned while cooking breakfast. It was obviously time for more medical intervention. That night he was admitted to the hospital where he remained for one week, followed by another week at a local rehabilitation facility.
Those two weeks and the month that followed with home health care were filled with moments of fear and insecurity for me personally. Watching my father, a former professional boxer, in a fight for his life, was new and uncharted territory for me. We'd never seen our father in such a weakened state and humbled by the need for others to bathe, feed and clothe him.
From my journal...
”Throughout this time I tried to listen to the voice of God as my faith was sorely tried. All the things I'd learned about God's healing power and His desire for us to be in health were severely challenged. Time was so filled with our caring for daddy, I rarely found time to read the Word, but looking back I know I was being carried along on the prayers and faith of others.
Looking back, I remember two incidents of God's very real presence to encourage me during this especially dark time last October. One occurred in the hospital and the other at the rehabilitation center. God is always near and His presence and voice are so close but there are times we are overwhelmed and we could miss them. I now believe He sees when we are in desperate need and comes “suddenly” on the scene with an unmistakable sound of His love and care for us.
We walked into the brightly lit and sterile room where my daddy would have a test to determine the damage done to his esophagus during the radiation treatments. The very first sound I heard as I stepped across the threshold of the room was a familiar hymn. “How Great Thou Art,” was playing on the radio, as the nurse who would help administer the test, sang along. It didn't take long for me to realize we were surrounded by those who trusted God as the doctor arrived and quickly let me know he was also a Christian. The magnitude of my daddy's illness paled in comparison as I listened to the faith filled words of this song. “Thy power throughout the universe displayed....”
The rehab facility...
It was 10 am and residents were being wheeled into the dining room for a worship service conducted by volunteers who come each week. Again I hear the sound of familiar hymns being played on the piano as my daddy and I make our way into the room. The word surreal came to mind as I observed all the elderly, sick and frail in the room. I'd never prepared myself to see this as a part of my daddy's life. He'd always been healthy and strong. A few moments into the service, I heard my daddy's raspy, uneven breathing and tears filled my eyes, making it impossible to read the words on the paper hymnal I held in my hands. I had only one choice at that point. I simply had to listen.
On the piano, familiar hymns played softly as“Love Lifted Me” and then “Amazing Grace,” began to bring a peace to my heart and soothe my fears. Then it happened again, the “suddenly” of the unexpected voice of God and His presence. Edith, a resident of the rehab center, was wheeled to the front of the room and took the microphone. The most unexpected, angelic and youthful sound came from her lips as she sang “I Walk with God,” and finally the tears flowed freely from my eyes.
God was singing His reassurance and comfort to me through this weak and frail one. She sang this song, unfamiliar to me, heartily, as if she'd sung it many times. If I'd closed my eyes, her voice would never have given the impression she was restricted to a wheelchair or unable to physically walk and attend to her own needs. There was a power within her voice that had nothing to do with her withering body.
It was on this day I realized how weak our flesh can become and yet the Spirit of God can rise up suddenly within us and give us the inner strength to walk through difficult circumstances and dark valleys.
It's been almost four years since his breast surgery and one year since his hospital visit. I had no idea where my daddy's journey would take us a year ago, but I can look back and see it has been a walk with God and one we couldn't have made without Him.
My dad, age 85, was in his garden yesterday, tilling the ground as he's loved to do as long as I can remember. He has regained some of his physical strength over the last year. He continues to walk in simple faith and trust in God.
As suddenly and miraculously as the seeds my father has planted over the years have come up and produced food for our family, the inner strength that springs up within us will always be available for the journey ahead. His promises are like seeds of hope....
In our weakness, He becomes strong.