Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Joy and Sorrow

It was just another normal extraordinary day.

Yesterday my friends John and Kori received news about the little baby girl they’ve been waiting to adopt. They know her name, they’ve seen pictures of her, and in less than two months they will be able to travel to China and hold her in their arms. This is a wonderful thing, even a blessed thing, and I’m very thankful for them and for the palpable joy they communicate in loving this little girl.

Yesterday I also heard from my friend Paula in Colorado. Her (now ex) husband left her a year ago, moved in with a woman twenty years younger than himself. But he continues to harass her, verbally abuse her, threaten her. She’s trying to raise two teenaged sons, playing supermom when she’s scared and lonely and fragile, working to earn money that never quite adds up to what is needed, dealing with a hole in her soul that no one else wants to deal with. “Get over him,” her friends tell her. “He’s an ass.” And I want to strangle people I don’t even know.

After work I drove up to Amity, Ohio, to visit the farm home of my friends Don and Joyce. Joyce has bone cancer, and has been in remission for the past couple years. Over Christmas her condition rapidly deteriorated. Now she can hardly walk. She’s weak, and sleeps most of the day. The doctors have offered the less-than-comforting options of three different kinds of aggressive chemotherapy treatments whose side effects are almost as bad as the disease itself. They have decided to forego all of those options and focus on a more natural cure, which apparently consists of various vitamins and nutrients in powder form, stirred into gallons of carrot juice every day. I want to shake my head. But mostly I want to cry. I’m not sure I would do anything different if I were in their shoes. Desperate times call for desperate measures. What the hell. Guzzle that carrot juice. It’s got to be better than constant vomiting and diarrhea.

Mostly I listened to them, listened to the litany of medical woes, names of medications, names of vitamins and gluco-nutrients. Then I hugged them and prayed for them. They’re grasping at anything, desperate for anything that might work. And I prayed for healing, prayed that God would work a miracle. And I believe that God can do those things. But I also wanted to bludgeon my head against the wall. I hate this. I cordially hate it.

I got home at 10:30 after having been gone for 15 hours. I didn’t want to see my family, although I dearly love them. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I felt exhausted. No, maybe not exhausted, because I didn’t feel physically tired. But I felt weary. I had a soul ache. I wanted to punch somebody. I wanted to punch Death, but he seemed to be out of easy reach. And so I went to bed, and punched my pillow, and prayed some more, and tossed and turned until 3:00 a.m.

So this is how I talk about it. Sometimes it helps to write. Sometimes it doesn’t. I still want to bludgeon my head against the wall.


Anonymous said...


thanks for the post. life is a paradox of joy and sorrow.

in a woddy allen movie, husbands&wives, a man quotes the famous einstein line "god does not play dice with the universe" for allen to only say he plays hide and seek. in times like john and kori's or your friends from out of town, we can only cling to the God who is there and is not silent


Jeffrey Overstreet said...


I'll be praying for Paula this week, and for Don and Joyce.

I just met with my co-workers here in the office for a prayer time, and learned that almost half of the office is dealing with cancer cases in their families right now. So these pleas are becoming a daily ritual... and I will include them in my prayers.

"But we know that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed..."

"And he takes, and he takes, and he takes..."

Anonymous said...


Once again you have captured in words what, I think, we all so often feel...in other times and lives this was called a Psalm. Selah.
I had a soul ache today too. I ache with you for those in your prayers and hope that with them you might say, "though he slay me, yet I will trust him."---JOB

e said...

Jeffrey beat me to it. I'm sorry.

"All the glory that the Lord has made,
and the complications when I see His face,
in the morning in the window.

"All the glory when he took our place,
but he took my shoulders and he shook my face,
and he takes and he takes and he takes."

nikkip said...

thanks for reminding me and so clearly explaining that we all have joy and sorrow to deal with...and that often times, the sorrow overshadows the joy. i, too, must often fight the urge to bang my head into the wall!

Anonymous said...

Regarding your friend Joyce, I'm curious as to what the doctors say will be the probable outcome of the various chemotherapies vs. forgoing them. One of the blessings and curses of any form of cancer is that you, the patient, are constantly offered options. My own take on this is, if chemo offers the chance of a significant increase in expected lifespan, she should consider doing it. If it offers a few extra weeks, don't bother. My guess is that there is very little valid research supporting the vitamins, nutrients, and carrot juice approach, other than as a supplement to real medicine. However, it's her decision, as it should be.

amy paxton said...

Yes...you described how I have felt many times over this. As one who watched both of my dad's brothers suffer long, arduous endings with cancer, I would never attempt to explain what or why or how...but I'll be praying with you.