In a little book of morning readings a couple of days ago, on the very morning that my younger daughter’s two little girls prepared to fly back to Kuala Lumpur with their dad, her husband, I read a message printed in a stranger’s book, one that is meant for millions. It’s a popular devotional that is based on scripture, a book I try to read each day. Each entry is always meaningful, but that day it was as though it was meant especially for my family, more especially for those of us with a part in the activities surrounding the departure of those children from their mother. Funny that in an ironic way often the messages in that book seem to be speaking directly to me. No doubt many people who read it each morning feel the same way. And yet, I choose to believe that different days resonate with different ones of us depending on the events of our lives. That morning was my turn.
The words in the book that morning spoke of being in the midst of a maelstrom, and were we ever in one that day. Have we not all been there? Is there a person among us that has known only peace, only laughter, only health, only joy? Is there such a person that has yet to experience troubles, tears, illness, sorrow? Is there a person who has not at some point ever asked why?
That morning as my daughter hurriedly packed the very last of the bags that the girls and her husband would carry home, as she checked and doubled-checked her children’s carry ons for the plane, making sure favorite snacks were visible and handy, that the personal electronics, loaded with favorite game occupied the assigned pockets, art books and colored pencils were stowed properly, their security blanket animals that soothe them to sleep nestled within a short reach (a task she’s done countless times for a flight that lasts 16 plus hours), I knew her heart was heavy. At the same time I was rushing to put the finishing touches on a photo album for each girl, a tradition that started with their first trip home after their move to Malaysia. This year I’ll also make little brother’s first one when he leaves. They hold precious pictures to mark our time together, to help remember their trip. I wonder if those books are as much for me as for them, even though I don’t make one for myself. After all, it’s crucial to me they never forget. The weight of my heart matched my daughter’s, with one exception. She had never sent them home. She had always accompanied them. That day was a new challenge for her, for my girl who needed no new challenges after learning of the cancer that kept her in the states while sending her two older children, still young, home to start school, to find comfort and distraction in routine, surrounded by the familiar. The cancer kept her on the ground while they took to the skies.
Even before we had feasted our eyes upon them long enough one last time or hugged them half enough times to satisfy our need to hold them close (is that even possible with grandchildren?), the girls and their daddy were off for the Houston airport where their mommy, my sweet daughter, would drop them, those most precious to her, save for their little brother, and stay the night to meet one last doctor on Monday at MD Anderson. One last time she would hear what is to happen on September 9 when she trusts her health, her life, to those who are said to be experts at saving it. One last time to hear how her body will be forever changed. It is her life we want. Everything else will be lagniappe. She would meet with the plastic surgeon, and that doctor plays a vital part in this process we now talk about with regularity, something ingrained into our lives, but that until three weeks ago, we’d never had to consider. Yes, that doctor is important, but life……life, to see her children become adults and have their own families, to grow old and content with her husband….that is paramount.
So I was left to seek God in the midst of this maelstrom, to speak His name, almost the only word I could mutter, when other words choked in my throat, when instead of watching my daughter’s car leave my driveway, I wanted to run and stop it. Could stopping it stop the future, the plane, the surgery? I will not waste my time wishing for a different set of circumstances. Not true – I will TRY not to waste my time wishing for something over which I have no control. Control, that illusion that I’ve sometimes believed I had. I have already been taught that I have no control over our lives. It appears I am to be taught once more. In truth, if I’m painfully honest, would I really want it?
On the day that my daughter drove her precious cargo to the airport, the first time in many that we have not done the driving because she, too, was always leaving, we were – and are – indeed in the midst of a maelstrom. Today, typing these words, we are in that raging storm that God sometimes allows around His children. Still, with one utterance of His name, the seas calm, the wind slows. It may only be for a moment. I need to utter it often. While I battle the pain of the day, the day of departures, the day that meant the disease we’d met is real, while thoughts whirled all around me, I remembered the name that has the power to bring peace to the chaos, the name of the one who holds us all, who can use this circumstance, this storm, for His purpose. I remember that He holds my daughter and her children just as He has held all of us who need Him and ask. I pray the serenity prayer again. God grant me, please grant me. For one special moment I have that peace that we find so hard to understand.
This peace I wish for my daughter. This peace she deserves. This peace she will have.