My mom’s second chemo happens today. “They” say that’s when patients might start losing hair.
A couple days after her first chemo, I was with my mom, sitting at the foot of her bed. My sister had just come home from work and came in to say hi. She asked my mom how she was feeling and my mom’s only answer was tears. My tears followed and my sister hugged our mom and turned her face away so that I was the only one who could see her bubbly smile replaced with pain. My sister inhaled deeply and I could see her willing the tears that had just started to form away. She turned back to face my mom with a smile and somehow continued on being upbeat.
Later on, I told my sister that I didn’t think she needed to hide her tears from my mom.
I’ve been very thinky lately, with all these serious circumstances and high stakes happening in my world. And, some of the questions I’ve been mulling over are What am I supposed to do? How can I help? What do I say? What do I not say? Am I doing everything wrong? What would I want? What does my mom want?
My conclusion to that flurry of answerless questions is Uh…I dunno, plus nightmares.
Here’s what I do know. There have been a handful of times that I felt extremely loved and the top moments that come to mind involve other people crying.
One of these moments happened recently.
Over Christmas vacation, Brandon and I were double-dating with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Because they are beautifully Jesus-like people, they asked us what we wanted to see God do in our lives in 2016. I mean, who asks that?
When it was my turn to answer, all my thoughts got jumbled up and I just started blabbering about painful life stuff. My mom’s cancer…a confusing relationship with an estranged family member…What did I want to see God do? Heal everyone? Fix everything? Give us peace? Use our pain? Come back in the clouds and make it all go away? All of the above?
I can’t remember all of the kind, undeserved, uplifting words that my sister-in-law and her husband poured into me that night, but I remember Lauren’s tears. She was actually crying…real tears…over my pain.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
God was loving me through Lauren’s tears that day.
Happy tears work, too. When my babies were born, my sister, Aubrey, was the crier. I received so much love in all forms when I had my girls – texts from friends, flowers from my mom, my favorite salad from my sweet Jenni. All of that was amazing. And I remember each gesture, but Aubrey’s tears are the highlight. She was so overwhelmed with love for my babies, she cried. And her love for them was deposited right into my soul.
Then, there was the time my organs were exploding. Well, not all of them. I’ll go into the details of that another time, but in 2010, I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy – screaming, gore, blood transfusions, etc. All of the drama left me with a broken heart, the loss of my first baby, and a body that couldn’t really move for almost a month. Brandon’s parents jumped on a plane and came to help us. His dad, Mike, scrubbed my kitchen floors (I will never forget this because they never before or again sparkled as they did that week), and his mom, Susan, did…everything. Trays of snacks, folding laundry, even offering to bathe me. But the stand-out moment was when she came into my bedroom to find me crying. I was angry with God. Really angry. I was, as Anne Shirley would say, “in the depths of despair.” Susan loves Jesus. She knows the Bible. She could have said, “How dare you be angry with God.” She could have said, “You can try for another baby.” But, she didn’t do any of that.
Anger spilled out of me as tears, and I think I said, “I just don’t understand why…”
And she grabbed my hands, hard, and her eyes met mine and she was angry, too. Not in the immature, selfish way I was. But, in the right way. And as tears rolled down her cheeks, she said, “I don’t either.”
And we sat and hugged and cried for a long time. In that moment, I wasn’t even sure if I still believed God was good, but I knew I was loved. I couldn’t see that God was loving me through Susan’s tears yet, but He was.
Now, I’m sitting in this unfamiliar valley beside people I love, watching them suffer, knowing I can’t fix their pain. But, I can be with them in their pain. I can cry, and let them see it and when they say “I don’t know why,” I can say, “I don’t either.”
Maybe God will love them through my tears.