It's late and I need to get to bed but I can't sign off from this day quite yet. Ever since early this morning, my heart and mind have been heavy with the knowledge of senseless suffering.
You know, there is so much suffering in the world it can become an entity of its own: "Suffering." As strange as it seems, I can almost keep it out there some place when there's just one big impersonal name for it.
But right now, suffering has a single, piercing name. Suffering slips through my defenses when the big generic title is dropped and I hear the name Esther.
Our friends, Wayne and Lori, were colleagues of ours in Europe when, 4 years ago, their young Esther was diagnosed with metastasized papillary thyroid cancer. It's been a rough road since then; one that seems to be moving toward a final destination.
Today, I am equally undone by the uselessness of Esther's suffering (what is the point?) and the honesty of her father's shared journal entries. Wayne has permissioned me to share a couple of excerpts here...
29 April 2010
Esther is not doing well. Next week they will be putting in one or more shunts (tubes for draining fluid) into her right side. All the fluid, and more, that they drained out a week ago is back again. This is very likely a sign of tumor growth. She's uncomfortable and tired a lot and has asked for a hospital bed so she can sleep for longer stretches. Our health care team is looking at yet another experimental chemo and maybe something more. We are willing and Esther is game to keep fighting, so we're not giving up hope!
Still, suffering seems a useless business. I see no value in my daughter's pain. I know the standard answers ("redemptive" "result of sin" "an evil attack" "bigger purpose"). But the only reality is mystery and that sucks. Our faith remains but is changed; we have "put away childish things". We talk about death and dying and living and loving and we wait, and try to dream a little together each day. Esther knows more about these things than any 15 year-old should. The grief for us is like a tightening of the chest, a closing in, a sadness and an anger and mostly, a helplessness. I can't do anything to make my little girl's pain go away! And she's so perfect, to me.
I wish I could tell you more but those treasures are ours for now. Thank you for waiting with us.
9 June 2010
Just last Friday evening Esther strolled (or rather was pushed by Angie in a wheelchair) around a local cemetery where she picked out her spot. Am I saying this? What parent helps their child choose a plot? This is not what we want. The joy and sadness of watching two sisters roll the grounds and simply be together was surreal. I cannot explain why hope sustains us even in the presence of innocence undone. Very few people in our culture talk about death and dying or if they do it's "embrace the light/suffering" or "fear not, heaven will reunite us with loved ones". I do not worry about death, at all, though I do not welcome Esther's dying. I do not care about joyous celebrations there; I want to give her away in marriage here! Heaven is Esther doing cartwheels again, her cloud of fire-white, brittle hair shining, waving at waiting earth.
How could I possible add any words to that?
Pray for Esther and her family. Their journal can be found here .