243 Days: What I am learning

Today is Labour Day in Canada. The first Monday of September and a long weekend holiday. As I sit in my library early this morning I am overwhelmed with joy at the thought that this is day 243 since Brenda’s cancer diagnosis.

Enjoying a walk on the Whiterock Pier
Enjoying a walk on the Whiterock Pier

Why joy you ask? Simple, Brenda is still with us and very much alive. We are enjoying life together and with our family. In a seemingly irrational manner, there is a new sweetness and depth to our relationship that we understand is perhaps counter intuitive given the circumstances.

We have had a series of good news reports from the oncologist of late. Word that five of the six lesions in her brain are gone and the sixth is in retreat. The mass in her lung has also shrunk and the cancer in her backbone remains in check. The latest scans show no further metastases – no further spreading of the cancer. So we rejoice in this news yet we are still living with cancer.

I can sure understand how the cancer journey causes so many patients and caregivers to suffer depression. It begins with a cumulative crisis of loss and anticipated loss. It is not just the fear of losing a loved one, but there are many other losses experienced along the way. Your life is changed. Things you used to do together, you no longer do. Patterns and responsibilities change. Your diet, sleep patterns, ability to travel, even your financial status all change with a cancer diagnosis.

As new medical appointments begin to fill your calendar it leaves little time for old relationships. People you find life giving are now inhibited from visiting with you because of your physical and emotional ability. Your ability to plan is thrown out the window as your physical stamina and the medical system now have a high degree of control over your schedule. These are all losses and we grieve these.

I have some moments when I catch myself getting caught up with the thought of being without Brenda. Theologically I understand that loss is not the central issue in my feeling sad and depressed, it is my unwillingness to let go. I am attached to Brenda. I love her and desire to be with her. I do not ever want her to leave me but a cancer diagnosis actually forces you to have to talk about ‘what if’ scenarios.

For friends who are not Christians and are in this kind of circumstance, I could see this being a very dark time. What seems like a completely empty life today morphs into an equally meaningless eternity. There is nothing to hope for and so the tendency would be to hold onto the memories and objects of the past. 

But as Christians we are called on to let go of everything that gives us security and cling to Jesus our Lord. Brenda and I know this in our heads, but we have moments when we get as frightened as anyone else at the thought of letting go. 

We become attached to our spouse, our family, our hobbies, our reputation, our ideas, our position, and our dreams. It is painful to think about giving them up ourselves, let alone them being taken away. 

The thought of loss can cause one to become hardened, and rather callous, towards the things we hold dear. It is our way of protecting ourselves from feeling hurt. It would be like me saying, “Oh I didn’t like sailing anyway, and we can sell the boat. I don’t care.” That would not be true. I’m fooling myself. I have great memories from our boat and I will miss her.

Yet central to the gospel is our willingness to let go of everything we cling to that we gain security from and to fully place our trust in Jesus. The closer we draw to God, the less prone to depression we are because fewer things can be taken away from us.

We are studying the book of Philippians right now at our church and in it Paul shares he has learned that in whatever state he finds himself, he will be content. How did he accomplish this? He shares that the things he used to count as ‘gain’ – the things he used to cling to for security – he is willing to let go of. All things were considered lost but for his clinging to God.

Early on in this journey I was praying and God called me by name and asked me to trust him – regardless of the outcome. Since then I have realized that I can trust Him and that life does not stop for our circumstance. I also have learned that there is a healthy sense of letting go of Brenda that I can embrace. It is in this process of letting go of Brenda and all the other ‘losses’ both perceived and real, that I am actually able to free myself to be fully God’s.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, after 243 days, I am coming to grips with the many losses we have already experienced. I am feeling free and trying to be content in our circumstances. But I still cry at the oddest times and without over spiritualizing receive this as part of the body’s natural recovery system.

I listen again for those words, “Carson, Trust me.”


7 thoughts on “243 Days: What I am learning

  1. Beautiful post, Carson! Thanks for bringing life into perspective once again! We, too, are on a journey of waiting and learning to live one day at a time. Rachel has been waiting for a heart transplant for over two years now. Heaven is so near… yet she lives each day God chooses to give with all she’s got! Asking God to give me the courage to do the same. Praying that the Lord will grant you immeasurable grace for the journey! Love from The McCary family

  2. Dear Pooh
    Thanks for your call this morning.
    It meant the world to me!
    I am so glad that you allow me to be your buddy:)
    I am excited about your writing and love to hear all the news.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Also, thanks for this post tonight..it is inspiring, practical and real
    You are a great man, and I love you!

    From: Carson Pue <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Reply-To: Carson Pue <comment+eg8w9e_b9zjdlqqinz_4bk7@comment.wordpress.com>
    Date: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 5:15 PM
    To: David Bentall <bentall@nxtstp.net>
    Subject: [New post] 243 Days: What I am learning

    carsonpue posted: “Today is Labour Day in Canada. The first Monday of September and a long weekend holiday. As I sit in my library early this morning I am overwhelmed with joy at the thought that this is day 243 since Brenda’s cancer diagnosis.Why joy you ask? Simple, Brend”

  3. Carson, I deeply appreciate these words. I’m not one to read blogs. But this is was well worth it. love, Courtney Reeve

  4. Carson, thanks for the meditation. I am so glad to hear Brenda is doing well. In my own journey I have found it difficult to distinguish the need to “let go” from the need to continue caring. I think the former refers more to my demandingness or control and the latter more to a compassion that is free from that – a painful thing I have found. It is a true effort to find a letting go that clings to Christ. I find it relatively easy for me to subtly slip from surrender to Christ into that hardness you speak of, and have found it requires real diligence of heart and earnest prayer (and repeated surrender that re-engages my Lord) to retain a heart openness while letting go of my expectations or requirements that God order the world in a particular way. It is all good “practice”, though, since in the end we let go of everything except Christ, who in return we finally receive much more of. May God continue to nurture both your heart and Brenda’s as you grow together through this.

  5. Thank you, Carson, for your transparency … and for reminding me that trust in our ever-faithful and loving Father is the best way for us to face and live through life’s challenges and losses.

  6. Thanks for your words Carson – facing uncertainty, marked with unfamiliar territory, can be so overwhelming on every level. Being honest thru the journey is imperative to how we embrace God, others, life and so much more, along the way. Thank you for your honesty, for sharing your thoughts, struggles and your enormous love of your best friend Brenda!! Praying for His grace to continue to carry you all, for His strength to embrace you when you least expect it and for His touch to restore Brenda. Your example is a blessing – thank you for sharing.

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