One of the biggest challenges came out of left field a month after Pedro’s successful stem cell transplant. My goal in telling this part of our journey is not to point fingers of blame or launch accusations—I simply want other caregivers (and potential caregivers—so that’s just about everybody) to know that wise people make provisions BEFORE disaster strikes and that harboring hate isn’t part of God’s plan.
We weren’t wise people.
It all had to do with work. Sick people can’t do it. If you’ve ever negotiated the turbid waters of unemployment insurance and catastrophic illness, you’ve probably already lived my nightmare.
We had excellent insurance—about the time Pedro fought his battle against the colonizing yeast infection, some kind soul from his place of work sent me papers to fill out so we could claim long-term disability (a benefit I’d never heard of before—but oh, what a difference it made!).
I had a hard time filling the forms out, because I hadn’t done what we should have done when Pedro got sick—set it up so that I could make decisions for him and sign papers for him—I think it’s called the “power of attorney”—in case he was ever unable to fill things out on his own.
Wisdom Nugget One—settle those matters at the beginning of an illness, or even when you’re not sick. It’s not a lack of faith—it’s an act of mercy for the person who might have to make tough decisions if the spouse is incapacitated.
Bob the Boss—Pedro’s supervisor (not his real name)—approached me about the same time. “Do you have a moment?” he asked.
“Sure.” I didn’t, I had an early morning flight to San Francisco to see Pedro and I had a list as long as Santa’s of things I needed to do before I left.
“It’s about time to start making plans for the next school year, and hum, er, well, we needed to decide what to do in case Pedro doesn’t make it.”
“Um, yeah. Do whatever you need to do, I guess,” I said as I headed out the door. The school board probably needed to make plans for a long-term sub in case Pedro wasn’t well enough to start teaching in August, I thought. Funny, though, August was nine months away. Oh, well, I don’t have time for Negative Nellies.
Fast-forward to early February and Pedro’s triumphant homecoming—a full two weeks earlier than the doctors predicted that he would be ready to return to Montana. He had been redeemed from the jaws of death.
Sure, he still looked like a walking skeleton, and we joked about his million-dollar chemo job that worked better than Botox for removing wrinkles (only on one side of his face, though). He had to carry a pillow to church to sit on, because the cushioned pews didn’t have enough cushion. We stuck close to him when he walked because his right foot didn’t work quite right.
But he gained strength every day—his speech improved daily (try talking without moving your lips to give you an idea of what he sounded like at one point) and a soft sheen of peach fuzz sprouted on his head. Yep, he looked awesome!
Less than a week after he came home for good, I ran to the house on my lunch break and Pedro greeted me with, “Bob called and asked me if I’d like to interview for my job.”
“What!?” And just like that, our biggest challenge nearly kicked our feet out from under us.
Evidently, Bob the Boss understood his hurried conversation with me months ago as a formal ‘pink-slip-kind-of-letter’ because, well, Pedro hadn’t worked for twelve weeks, and it was his right as an employer to terminate the contract. I, on the other hand, thought it was a confession on his part of his lack of faith in God.
Bob the Boss had lined up two other candidates for the job and wanted to know if Pedro would like to interview as well. Pedro had had a rough first part of the school year at his new job—and just when things seemed to settle down, he had received his initial cancer diagnosis and missed the rest of the school year.
The school board had renewed his contract for the following school year, despite his illness, and Pedro had worked over the summer to send out newsletters to parents and keep the school grounds looking good. But Pedro hadn’t made it back to start the new school year because of his relapse.
After a day or two of shell shock, and a few well-intentioned but really uncomfortable visits from ‘concerned community members,’ we still weren’t sure how to handle the situation. We prayed. Separately and together. Day and night. The question, the insult (who calls and asks someone if they’d like to ‘interview for their job?’), the board’s lack of confidence in Pedro all threatened to eat away our joy of being together again.
While the community had been incredibly supportive financially during Pedro’s illness, they didn’t seem quite sure what to do with the walking miracle they had in their midst. After a lot of prayer, Pedro accepted the invitation to interview, but when he arrived, he simply made a statement reminding them that he had never been officially unhired, therefore he didn’t feel that he needed to interview for the job, and then he left.
We both felt at peace about his decision and subsequent action, and we had already discussed that perhaps for the benefit of our family, Pedro should home school our girls the following school year and not bring more stress upon himself.
The board interviewed the other two candidates and hired one of them.
Despite his wonderful improvements, there was no way that a stranger would hire Pedro for anything other than an extra in a movie like, say, Schindler’s List.
I filled my journals with prayers for Bob the Boss and the other board members. I prayed daily for a spirit of forgiveness. I knew that God had a plan, but his plan tasted like a bitter pill at the time.
And despite my resentment against the ‘concerned community members’ who had the temerity to suggest that Pedro shouldn’t work, I eventually came to realize that God really was leading us—his redeemed. Together we decided that if we wanted to continue to live in the community, we would have to forgive and forget. It wasn’t a hill to die on and we didn’t want to live in bitterness. We would just have live in the knowledge that God was leading.
My head knew that we had made the right decision, but my heart struggled to forgive everyone involved in the decision. I spent many hours in prayer begging God to help me feel like I’d forgiven them—to treat them with love when I saw them in church or the supermarket. To smile genuinely at them when we met. God answered those prayers, but it took time (which is ok, heart changes take so much longer than head changes).
Wisdom Nugget Two—cancer (or other catastrophic illnesses or accidents) will change you. Let God lead you through those changes and don’t harbor bitterness or hurt pride or hurt feelings. It’s not part of His plan.
What lessons have you learned on planning ahead and letting God lead?
For more of the story, start here.