Happy-Face State of Grace

Sometimes, the grace of God protects you from news that could overwhelm you.

Sometimes, the grace of God protects you from news that could overwhelm you.

Today I’m linking up with Holley Gerth with some Coffee for Your Heart.  It’s a strong cup of coffee this morning, friend.  But I want to encourage you and let you know that God’s grace covers in ways you may not realize until much later.

“How’s your husband doing?” a vaguely familiar lady asked as I stood looking blankly at the library’s free magazine collection.

I smiled. “He’s hanging in there,” I assured her. “We leave for San Francisco for further treatments tomorrow.

“I’m Alicia, from the furniture store,” she reminded me.

“How could I forget?” I had never lived in a small town where people actually remembered details about you. “You were so helpful!”

“Did you ever find a recliner?” she asked.

Not only did this kind soul remember my husband’s cancer diagnosis, but she remembered the specific type of furniture I had looked for. That worried me a bit. Had I spilled my guts to a complete stranger? “No,” I replied. “My husband went into remission rather quickly, and we found him a comfortable deck chair that we could carry outside. He loves hanging out in the front lawn.”

“That’s nice. I’m so glad to hear he’s doing better.”

The details of our first encounter came back to me. Sometimes, I had difficulties remembering where I’d met someone and what I’d told them…I tend to talk too much when I’m nervous.

“Actually, he’s back in the hospital, but we just got news today that a bed opened up for him in the oncology unit at University of California San Francisco in California.” I smiled again, this time a more genuine one.

“I’m sorry,” Alicia said. Honest concern clouded her features.

“It’s ok,” I smiled again. “It’s a large hospital and they will know how to treat his cancer.”

“I’m glad he’ll get help,” Alicia gushed. “I hear there’s a really sad case at the hospital now. A young man has inoperable brain cancer.”

“How tragic,” I murmured.

“It is!” she conceded. “He has two young daughters and the doctors can’t do anything for him.”

“Wow,” I answered, feeling sudden pity for the wife and children, “that’s horrible!” I glanced at my watch. So much to do. “I’ll have to look for them this evening when I see Pedro. Thanks for asking about him.” Alicia smiled her reply as she hurried out of the library. I selected a couple of random magazines, and suddenly remembered that I needed to talk to a librarian and explain my late books.

“Excuse me,” I said with a smile, “I need to ask if there’s anything I can do about the late fees on these books.” I held up the offending children’s books and looked my most apologetic. “My husband has cancer and—“

“I spoke with you earlier this summer!” the librarian exclaimed. “How’s he doing?”

“Hanging in there,” I smiled in amusement but thought to myself, “Which is hard to do when one has lymphoma cells multiplying like bunnies in one’s brain fluids.” Someone else recognized me.

“Don’t worry about those fines.” The librarian took the books from me. “Life must be pretty hectic for you right now.” She tapped on her keyboard and my fines magically disappeared.

“If only cancer would disappear like that,” I thought. “Thank you so much!”

“Don’t worry, honey,” the librarian replied. “I can just tell from your smile that he’s getting better.”

If only my happy face mask could restore my husband’s health.

That evening tears filled my eyes as Laura and Sarah ran toward me down the hospital hallway. My parents walked more slowly behind them, and I just couldn’t believe all the ways God had blessed us: My parents had moved in with us to watch our children; a patient liaison who had arranged for an air ambulance for Pedro’s flight to San Francisco; community members who cared enough to ask; a kind staff at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. How could I wrench myself away from this little community and throw myself on the mercies of a big teaching hospital whose employees probably outnumbered the population of Bozeman.

I took a deep breath and put on my happy face, excited to share our good news with the girls, even if it meant separation for who knew how long. The important thing remained—Pedro would get help!

When visiting hours ended, I hugged the girls one last time. “Will we see you tomorrow?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I won’t know until tomorrow what time our plane leaves. I promise I’ll come to the house and let you know and say goodbye if I have time. I f I don’t, I’ll call you for sure.”

“Ok.” I could see the uncertainty and sadness and the unanswered questions. But I couldn’t answer them yet.

I hugged them both again, my arms aching for that other mother with small children, girls, I think Alicia said. I just had to explain a trip to another city. How could that poor mother explain to her daughters that they were losing their daddy to an inoperable brain tumor?

Laura and Sarah walked back down the hallway—a hallway that seemed to darken and stretch and swallow my two small daughters as I prepared to carry my husband with cancer in his brain off into the unknown. I shook myself and looked around. I should find that other woman. Maybe I could comfort her in some way.

***

I wandered around the hospital for a good twenty minutes, looking for the other woman with two young girls and reminiscing about the time I’d spent there over the last five months. The short stays, the long stays, the stays where the cafeteria ladies inadvertently gave me the employee discount because I ate there so often, the sweet nurses and CNAs, and he doctors had tried all they could, but who seemed to have given up hope.

I finally wandered back to Pedro’s room and prepared my cot for another night in the hospital.

I never did find that lady with the terminal husband and two small daughters.

How has God’s grace shielded you?
Link up with other talking about words of life here and Telling His Story.

A Soft Gentle Voice

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Beautiful, honest, sad, touching and hopeful all wrapped into one heart wrenching post. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. I’m sure it will comfort others on a similar journey. When my dad was battling Cancer many years ago, I was a college student and spent much time in hospitals with him. Those small gestures you mention here made a world of difference.
    Little Miss Wordy recently posted…Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A TimeMy Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words. I hope your dad made it.

  • Such a powerful post, Anita! Praising God with you that this is part of Pedro’s testimony… praising God that he is now cancer-free!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…The Power of Testimony… like His Train Filling the TempleMy Profile

    • Thank you, Karrilee :). I definitely thank God every day that Pedro was spared!

  • Wow, a beautiful story! I love how all your posts about Dad’s cancer reveal things I never knew (good things). 🙂
    Laura Melchor recently posted…The Green PlaceMy Profile

    • Isn’t it crazy how God works to shield us from too much information? This wasn’t the only time it happened, and it was only after he’d been well for two or three years that I remembered this incident.

  • I am here via Twitter (thanks for the follow) and finding your story very inspiring. I understand you sometimes need to keep a happy face to protect yourself, but it’s great that people, even those you don’t really know, care about you. God brought these people into your life, and that’s good even if it feels awkward at first.
    Astrid recently posted…Herbal Teas: My First Five HerbsMy Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by, Astrid! I have received immeasurable blessings from both strangers and friends throughout my life. And you’re right, sometimes, receiving from strangers feels awkward at first!

  • Great post! I just wrote a post today about how God uses our struggles and hardships for good! My mom is a cancer survivor and I have watched God use something so awful for such wonderful purposes. Glad your husband is well and won the battle. I know God will use your story for His glory!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer :). When people ask me “Don’t you wish your husband had never had cancer?” I can honestly say that I regret the physical pain that he went through, but he and I both agree that God used the experience to shape us into different people–people closer to His heart and fit for His service.

  • This brought me to tears, Anita! Thank you for sharing this encouraging story and being the mirror reflecting God’s grace as a sun and a shield, protecting and blessing us. Cancer runs in my family so your post touched my heart in a big way. God bless you.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Maria. I’m glad you feel encouraged. Cancer is terrible, but, oh, I learned so much during the journey!

  • Anita,
    Wow….so glad your husband is now cancer-free and for how God showed you kindness, which you saw and are now sharing with us…Thank you…praying your story will encourage others.
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…3 Surprising Ways Your Faith Can Make a DifferenceMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by, Dolly :). I used to think I had no ‘testimony’ because I had lived a pretty normal life–but now I understand that ‘testimony’ is just sharing the ways that Jesus makes us better and helps us through our rough spots. I’m glad I can share!

  • Thanks for sharing, Anita. At the same time it must have felt strange to have so many strangers know your stories, I can see a little sense of community and caring in the way these different people remembered you and asked about your husband. But then when you get to the real community of your parents and your daughters and all the people who helped you through that time, it’s clear that there’s a big difference between the two. It’s a good thing we have those people we can lean into when crisis hits.
    Katie recently posted…The yellow blanket [at Little Did She Know]My Profile

    • Amen to that, Katie! Community reminds me of roots of a tree–there’s the tap root that goes the deepest and provides the most support for the tree above, but all of the other little roots are important, too.

  • Honest and real and full of hope amidst difficult uncertainties, all pointing to God’s faithfulness and grace. I’m blessed to have linked up next to you at Jennifer’s. …your post hits especially hard for me today as I learned that my friend who battled stage 3 breast cancer last year while pregnant with her 2nd, has found another cancerous lump in her arm. Tomorrow Alyssa will have a full body scan to find out how wide the cancer has spread. She’s 32 and devastated but clinging tight to Jesus and proclaiming his goodness even in the scary unknown. I will pray for you and your husband as I pray for me sweet friend.
    Becky Keife recently posted…The Cost of JoyMy Profile

    • Oh, Becky! I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I’ll lift her up in prayer as well. And I’ll be praying for you that you may be the friend she needs during this difficult time.

  • What a powerful testimony, Anita. It seems we all know people who have had cancer. It’s such a painful disease all the way around. I’m glad you had so much support, including kind acquaintances. Thank God he is cancer free!
    Jennifer Steck recently posted…Walk With Me Challenge #walkwithmeMy Profile

    • I was blessed, indeed, by all of the people that God placed in our lives (and come to think of it, I continue to be blessed by the people God places in my life 🙂 ). Thank you for stopping by, Jennifer!

  • A beautiful and touching post, Anita. I love how we can look back and difficult times in our lives and see how God truly does use it all. That we can look back and know that because of it He changed us and made us stronger. . . and we are reminded of our great need for Him. Thank you for sharing with Three Word Wednesday. It’s a delight to have you join our writing family. Blessings to you.
    Beth (@SimplyBeth3) recently posted…Friday Randomness (Vol. 22)My Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by, Beth, and thank you for your kind words :).

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