Back to Memphis

Last week, Sidney and Rachel flew back to Memphis for thyroid appointments –Sidney for surgery, Rachel for biopsy.  They pose outside Tri-Delta, the on-campus hotel for patients on short-term visits.

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My kids, cheerful and optimistic, just before they get their thyroids poked.

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This time, Dad gets to go in and watch Sidney try to out-talk or out-sing his anesthesia.

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While Sidney is still out, Rachel gets prepped.  Apparently all white and a blue cap transforms even a ditch-digger into a medical professional-looking guy.

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They all returned home late Saturday night.   We were happy to have our crew back together again.  Lincoln and I were particularly happy for Rachel’s return.  She is so quiet that it is easy to forget when she is even in the same room, yet we discovered that Rachel is a powerful force in “diluting” Prairie, as Lincoln says.

In other words, Rachel keeps Prairie busy and distracted so that the rest of us are not the focus of Prairie’s jokes and pranks.

Of doors and kingdoms

 

From Memphis with Love . . .

 

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“. . . the cross is to be interpreted as the coming of the kingdom on earth as in heaven . . .” (Wright, 244)

“The resurrection is, from Mark’s point of view, the moment when God’s kingdom ‘comes in power.'” (Wright, 246)

“Jesus’ followers, equipped with his Spirit, are to become in themselves, individually and together, little walking temples.” (Wright, 247)

“What will happen though, is that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  Then you will be my witness in Jerusalem . . .to the very ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7 – 8 )

“I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins . . .” (The Apostles’ Creed)

For the past 8 months, my son Sidney and I have lived in Memphis while he receives cancer treatments at St. Jude.  We are at the hospital almost daily, and eat and sleep either at the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House with other cancer patients and their families.  We meet all kinds of people — kind people, irritating people, hurting and fragile people, strong people, smelly people.  Some who draw you in and some who make you want to run the other way.  I am learning a lot about people under stress, my son and how others view him.  It is perplexing at times.

Sidney has made many friends and maintains contact with several patients and families who have moved on.  One particular family has been at St. Jude since Sidney and I arrived back in June.  We have known them the longest.  Bhavesh and Chan Chal traveled from the other side of the world with their small son, Manan.  They miss their family and culture but are friendly and eager to chat and learn about people here.  Like most people in Memphis, they met Sidney first.  I met them later, via Sidney.

Bhavesh and Chan Chal frequently tell me that Sidney is different.  They see a sparkly future, an adult Sidney who impacts the world.  While it naturally pleases my ears to hear such praise of my son, it also makes me a bit uncomfortable.  At the risk of being called a terrible mother (which has happened before) or looking like a terrible mother (yep, there is precedent), I confess I don’t see it.  What I see is a brave young man whose desire is to be a husband and father, a young man who laughs, makes others smile, a young man who wants to serve.  That is enough for me.  I am proud of him.  But it is rather ordinary, isn’t it?  There are many brave, kind and fun young people here.

A few days ago, Bhavesh and Chan Chal told me about the first time they noticed Sidney.  They were sitting in St. Jude’s main lobby, waiting for the shuttle.  That lobby is a busy place, many people in and out, the spry and healthy use the revolving door.  Wheelchair patients and the slower-moving struggle through the heavy, double doors.

A less mobile patient was struggling with those heavy doors, and Sidney jumped up to open the door.  Bhavesh told me, “Here was this young man, who was sick, getting up to help someone else.  I was sitting there, healthy but occupied wth my own worries and my own family.  Most people were sitting there focused on their own worries. But Sidney sees other people.”

Is it that simple?  I wondered.  Is the simple act of seeing a small need and performing a small service enough?

The words of NT Wright sprung to mind.  He says God’s people are meant to be “kingdom-bringers.”  That seems like a grand thing and our world does not appear to have many people engaged in grand, kingdom-bringing activities.

But I remembered that the people of Jesus’ day expected grand actions and large sweeping changes — overthrown goverments and a new kingdom ruled by the God party.  However, Jesus worked in ways neither expected nor understood.  He spent most of his time doing small things —- seeing people, being kind, healing outcasts, teaching, touching, blessing small children. He saw needs.  He served.  He washed feet that were probably smelly.

Perhaps our “kingdom-bringing” activities are the grand occupations of looking to see, opening doors, removing obstacles, making a way.

If we are “walking temples” as Wright puts it, then we must open doors to people, even when we don’t feel like it.  We must invite with our whole being and our actions should convey “Welcome, bring your whole self in, sins and all.  You are safe here, this place where sacrifices are made and sins are forgiven.  No, don’t worry about your soiled feet and dirty rags.  I will help wash your feet and find clean clothes for you.  We’ll do it together.”  The vulnerability of such action makes me squirm.

Can I be that place of sacrifice and forgiveness?  Even when I’m sick and and tired and don’t feel like it?  Even for people I don’t like?  Can I risk the abuse and disappointments that will surely come?  I’m not sure, but it feels imperative to try, to watch for those who need an open door, to be a person who opens it and encourages them to come inside . . .

me.

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  • Wright, N.T.  How God Became King:  the Forgotten Story of the Gospels.  HarperCollins, New York.  2012

Another Day, Another Transfusion

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Sidney has finished his chemo treatments for pineoblastoma.  He is in the recovery phase.  All that chemo beat up his bone marrow, and he needed blood and platelet transfusions to build his body back up.  We are hopeful that he will not need any more blood.  Today, he got a platelet transfusion.  Platelets often look like orange juice.

Sidney’s 18th birthday is March 13th, and we are hoping to be back home celebrating by then.

Friends soothe a sore heart

(from Memphis with love . . .)

 

Being away from home is hard.  Cancer, sickness, endless hours in the hospital are hard.

But the darkness cannot encompass us with good friends who shine light and joy.

Sidney particularly bonded with Marco.  Marco finished treatments and went back home to Canada.  Before he left, Sidney and I took Marco and his mama to a Sonic.  Apparently, there are wild rumors in Canada about the awesome milkshakes of Sonics in America.  I don’t think our Canadian friends were disappointed.

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Sidney cozied up to this cutie today.  Sweet Camille has turned a corner and is clearly feeling better.  She was interested in Sidney Nintendo, so he showed her Animal Crossing, but she seemed to spend almost as much time . . .

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doing this — sweeping her eyes up to look at Sidney.  It was precious.

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Camille — a bright, happy moment in our day.

Redemption

ticktock

sounds like the End

or Redemption,

maybe they are the same thing

ticktock

I am the mouse running . . . nowhere

marking the calendar, scheduling bloodwork, MRIs, lumbar punctures, chemo,

crossing off these days

longing for The Day.

 

I have my Son here whom I cherish,

Together, we make a doctrine of our present, amputated life

with music and new friends.

We make happy in the moment

but sorrow nudges our periphery,

stretching to a hazy horizon,

a destination where I hope to find

the Father, another Son, a red-haired Daughter, a brown-eyed Daughter.

 

So far away

yet close

sorrow and hope entwined.

You are my bones, breath and blood.  I spill You from my pen

onto my little notebook

while I sit in waiting rooms.

I talk to You in the shower, driving to the store, taking out trash.

All my Words, spoken and written to You, for You, about You.

Perhaps I try to speak You into being

here with me.

 

Your Absence is as real to me

as the person standing beside me in this borrowed kitchen

while I stir the cabbage.

 

Perhaps I hear Your Absence louder

than Your Presence  —

I hope not.

I hope my ears hear

and my eyes see You

clear and subtle

when You share Your heart,

tell me Your story,

show me Your beetle,

play Your song.

 

ticktock

Did you know Time is elastic?

It stretched long these last months,

each moment anorexic without

You

and You

and You

and You.

I want to snap Time back to

our Together in a wooded Eden on the hill.

ticktock

Instead, I wait

ticktock

I wait for our Restored Home on the horizon

while I use my heart, hands and words to redeem now.

Living Life at the Ronald McDonald

Halloween — I was trying to blow a kiss to Sid, but I am discovering that selfies just make me look p-r-e-t-t-y foolish.  Oh well . . .

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Heading in for a thyroid biopsy last week  — Sidney’s latest game is seeing how long he can sing before the anesthesia knocks him out.  I recorded him.  The medical staff got a laugh out of it.

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At the movie theater — we had just watched Dr. Strange.

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Picking at the piano in the little chapel room at the Ronald McDonald House

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Teen Room at the Ronald McDonald — I’m too old to enter, so I had to take pictures through the glass door.

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On the playground this week