Thursday, February 19, 2015

Loving Concern

One of the best parts of our humanity is the desire to help our brothers or sisters in need. It is a tender, loving concern that transcends age, gender, race, or religion. It is the tugging of our heart strings and the whisper of a still, small voice that urges us to push aside our own comfort to give to someone else. I have been the humbled receiver and the grateful giver many times, but recently, I've been awed by the goodness of others who long to ease the burdens of a suffering friend. In some cases, it involves someone they barely know and have only heard about through social media, such as blogs or news reports, or through word of mouth. Some are friends, some are neighbors, some are relatives; some are in circumstances that mirror our own, some live a haunting existence, and some go from carefree to aching heartbreak in an instant. 

I regularly read updates on three of my fellow cancer warriors. I'm sure I've mentioned them before. Kathy and Alisa are both melanoma fighters, and Dov started his journey with a colon cancer diagnosis. All three are parents of young children and all three have devoted spouses & family members. Dov is the only one I have met in person. He is the epitome of hope and optimism in the face of harrowing pain, loss, and "bad news". Recently, he has been going through more painful rounds of chemo, and yet he continues to "walk the halls" of Huntsman, offering mini candy bars, words of encouragement, and heartfelt hugs to other cancer patients, all while dragging his chemo bags behind him. The other day he posted a plea for "good vibes", as he was going to have  another MRI to determine what could be causing an extreme pain in his back. Worse-case scenario: tumors embedded in his spine. The mere thought of it prompted him to ask for "help" from all of us. There was nothing physical we could do, but collectively we could pray, send positive energy and love, and keep him in our hearts & thoughts. Miracles happened. More tests will be performed, but spinal tumors were ruled out.

Alisa is a patient of my wonderful oncologist, Dr. Grossmann, as well as other good Huntsman docs. In the past few months, she has had new tumor growth instead of shrinkage and was finally accepted into a new chemo combo trial. Her infusions are given over the course of several days at a time, which means she stays in the hospital to receive the treatments. She started in January, and soon her blog posts were not in her own hand, but were being written by her husband & other family members. Alisa was in severe pain and spent most of her time in medicinal sleep. It was heart-breaking to watch and read. When she was awake, she was loopy, too drugged to make any sense. Her husband recently wrote that she didn't remember much of anything about those long January days. Again, there was nothing I could do physically - she was being tube-fed, she couldn't have visitors (germs & all that), and she was mostly asleep - but I could pray. And I did (and still do). Even though she is home now (until the next round begins), her husband's sweet posts make me cry. She is my sister, though we have never met.

Kathy, too, suffered terrible pain and sickness before she passed away at home on New Year's Eve. Her husband's post about that unimaginable day when he and his father and mother carried Kathy from the bathroom to the bed, knowing that she had already passed, and dreading the moment they would have to bring the children in to say goodbye to their angel mother had me weeping with a broken heart. I had never met her, but I knew her. I had prayed for her, for miracles to keep a young mother with her babies, but her time had come. I still read her husband's eloquent posts about his new, changed life without his sweetheart, and I still pray.

Our little neighborhood has been reeling from recent events, too. Our wonderful, kind, loving Bishop suffered a heart attack last month at the young age of 36. Our congregation was stunned and shocked at the news. Here was a man who exercised regularly, participated in life to the fullest, had a beautiful wife and four small children, and radiated a vibrant lifestyle.Tests revealed that he had a tear in his aorta, a condition that could only be resolved by open heart surgery or with medications to slowly mend the tear. A few phone calls and FaceBook posts were made, asking for fasting and prayers that he and his family could make the right decision, a request which rippled through the entire neighborhood & community. After a long stay in the hospital, in which he was kept as quiet and non-stressed as possible, further tests were done...and miracles happened. The tear had mended almost to the point of being completely healed, something his doctors assured him never happened as quickly or as well. 

And then, just yesterday, in the blink of an eye, something happened that got me thinking about our ability to "love one another." Sirens are a rarity in our little subdivision, but about noon, a horde of police cars, an ambulance, and a fire engine came racing past my home, sirens blaring. They suddenly squealed to a stop in front of the house directly behind us (we share a fence). I stood at my patio door, hair still wet from my late shower, no trace of makeup, sweat pants and bare feet, and watched as policemen scurried through my neighbor's open front door. Sweet, beautiful Faby, young mother of two little ones - was there a fire? Were the kids okay? Was Faby okay? That tugging, those whispers, would not let me stand & watch. I had to go, if for no other reason than to let my neighbor know I was there. As I came around the corner of our fence, two paramedics rushed out the door, cradling a baby between them. One held an oxygen mask over the baby's face, the other held a limp, seemingly lifeless body of a baby boy. Faby also came running out, carrying her own little boy, her daughter and another little girl close on her heels. Two other neighbors came out of their homes, each mothers of little ones. Faby struggled to tell the story as quickly as possible, handing her children off to the young mothers. She was tending the baby & his older sister and had laid him down for a nap, checking on him every few minutes because he had been sick and was congested. The last time she checked on him, he had turned over from his back to his stomach and was not breathing. She called 911 and started CPR.  The paramedics were able to get him breathing again, but he ended up being flown by Life Med to Primary Children's Hospital for further testing. The waiting was torture for Faby, even though the police & paramedics said she had done everything right. Hugs and words of comfort were exchanged before one neighbor took the little girls to her house to play "princesses" and another took Faby's baby home to play with her small son. I became the "storyteller", as neighbors poured from their homes into the street, worry and concern on their faces for the baby and for Faby. Our quiet little street was completely blocked off by police cars, sheriff vehicles, and neighbors who heard the helicopter from many streets away. Everyone I talked to offered help in some form or other, but mostly we prayed. When the baby was lifted from the ambulance into the helicopter, his little arms and legs were stretching and kicking against the blankets, and I felt in my heart that he would be okay.

This "loving concern" is a blessing, both for those who give it and those who receive it. It is part of our brotherhood and sisterhood. We are all children of God, siblings in a huge eternal family. No wonder our hearts ache for those who suffer and rejoice in the miracles and tender mercies that come from our Father. I hope to always keep an open heart that can be touched from within.

(Happy, happy February birthdays to these sweet treasures!)