This past weekend didn’t go as expected. I thought I’d do a little laundry, a little crafting, a little quilting, and a decent amount of course prep work. Instead, I called my mom around 9:00 Friday night and found out she was at the emergency room with my grandma who had a collapsed lung. They were waiting for the doctors to come put in a chest tube. After a little waiting and some texts back and forth with my sister, I was heading down the road towards my parents’ house with some hastily packed clothes and books in the back of the car.
It didn’t take too long to find out that my grandma had the fluid in her lungs due to a large inoperable tumor the size of a lemon that is in her lung. I think it’s not just taking her breath away but the breath of our entire family. But, we’re still family, and she’s still the same grandma. I was reminded of that this weekend.
Grandma is actually quite the riot in the hospital. She’s always been a strong, resilient woman, the last to complain in any situation. My mom told me that when the ER doctor was taking her health history, he asked her what was going on. She told him that she thought she had being fighting pneumonia for three weeks but that she thought her lungs were back to 90% capacity. I’ll bet he never heard that diagnoses from someone with an entirely collapsed lung. She’s probably a legend in the doctor’s lounge now.
And, my grandma always thinks of everyone else before herself. When I got to the hospital on Saturday morning, she was gushing over my blog post about the mouse in the house, which my mom had read to her to keep her entertained during their 10+ hour stint in the ER the day before. And, then my mom proceeded to tell us that while a hospital staff member was pushing my grandma’s wheelchair, my mom saw my grandma waving the staff member down to her level and saying something to him. My mom thought maybe she was uncomfortable and needed him to slow down, but she found out later that my grandma was telling him that he smelled good. Grandma laughed as mom told the story and said she’s always appreciated good colognes.
Of course, there have been tears and questions this weekend too. The family arrived and we commandeered a small waiting room on the critical care floor. We were so packed in there that I had to sit on the magazine table because there were no chairs left. The nurses were enforcing the two visitors at a time rule pretty strictly as the day wore on and grandma started to get more and more worn out. So, we rotated in and out of the room. Two of us would go see her while the rest of us stayed behind and tried to keep our minds occupied by telling family stories and catching up with each other. Then, two people would return and two more would get to go visit. We rotated in and out, laughing and looking restless by turns.
After we left the hospital that evening, God gave me such a reminder of his presence. Dusk was setting in, and I was sitting in my car, waiting for a light to change. Clouds and clouds of little birds came swooping in. They filled the telephone lines, sitting side by side until the lines were one solid mass of birds. Then, something would disturb the birds, and they would take to the sky again in their massive clouds. After swirling around a bit, they’d alight on the lines again, jockeying for the limited space on the lines. So many birds. As I was watching them, Matthew 10:29-31 came into my mind: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And, yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” And, I knew that just as God saw the birds on the power lines, jockeying for their space, God also had seen my family that afternoon, jockeying for chairs.
Matthew talks about birds in chapter 6 as well. He says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (26). The rest of the chapter is about not worrying because we know that God knows us and knows our needs. Verse 34 says, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” One of the best ways of paraphrasing that verse that I’ve ever heard is this: Don’t open your umbrella until it starts raining.
Our family is still waiting beside my grandma for answers, waiting for tomorrow. Since it was a holiday weekend, the hospital was running on mostly a skeleton crew, so there haven’t been any follow-up CAT scans to tell us more about the edge of the tumor that the doctors also saw in her stomach. We’re still waiting to see when she’s going to be able to get the chest tube removed and what the treatment plan is going to be when its time to start chemotherapy. So, what I think we’re all trying to do now is keep our umbrellas closed, to remember that we have not escaped God’s attention and that he has a plan. It might not be our preferred way of doing things; we tend to want to stay out of emergency rooms and away from cancer entirely, but he does have a plan and he’s careful to provide what is needed as he children travel through it.