Last Friday, we sat crowded in the doctor’s office beneath white lights and the weight of a new cancer diagnosis. My in-laws, husband and I waited for the doctor to arrive and deliver my father-in-law’s pathology report.
My father-in-law, David, sighed as he shifted in the chair beside his wife, Earlene. She sat loaded with questions and the history of losing her mother to cancer many years before. She expected the truth, and yearned for a way to handle it. The woman who was always prepared was now trying to prepare herself for the unknown.
The anticipation in the room diminished momentarily when my husband, Andy, cracked a joke to lighten the mood. Chuckles dispersed into the air.
In between small talk, I thumbed the edges of the notebook on my lap, preparing my approach to the soon-to-be-known specifics. My handwritten questions stared at me, screaming from the page to be answered.
We each wanted answers, and the ability to find meaning and value in this situation.
Before the doctor entered the exam room, David turned to tell me how grateful he was that I was there.
Several days earlier, David thanked God for blessings beyond anything he thought he deserved, as our family gathered around a bountiful Thanksgiving feast with hands joined and heads bowed during grace. He did this despite the cancer.
An inner part of me gasped in awe at his devoted praise and acknowledgement. I held the truth of my father-in-law’s words in the joined hands of my husband and brother-in-law. I realized the reality of his praise as I inhaled the warm seasoned swirls of roasted turkey, stuffing and sweet squash—and felt the sense of comfort, safety and love.
Through this cancer, gratitude grows more abundant in my heart. I couldn’t help but ask myself, Why gratitude? And what does this mean? I am learning that gratitude isn’t just an emotion. It is something we should do. Gratitude is the ability to find meaning and value in every situation. (click to Tweet)
Melody Beattie wrote,
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. (click to Tweet) It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
I see God’s great power through this difficult time, and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit meet us. People pour out their love with visits and hugs, phone calls and cards, and loving words and acts of kindness. Church members ask how they can help. An old friend David hadn’t seen for nearly two years showed up at their house with homemade seafood chowder. Friends and family from all over the country tell them they are praying for them.
I am grateful for being available as a nurse and daughter-in-law, to answer their questions and guide them through his medical care. I appreciate their confidence in me as I respond to their needs.
Two Sundays ago, I watched a son ask his father if he could pray over him: my husband and his dad approached the altar. Andy placed a hand on his dad’s shoulder. They bowed their heads, closed their eyes. I saw Andy’s lips move, heard the reverent murmur of his voice. To see a son pray for his father before God’s altar is one of the purest things I have witnessed. Three years ago, his dad showed Andy the same beautiful love before Andy’s heart surgery.
We watch the Bible verse John 13:35 come alive:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
During times like these, we learn what people are made of.
When my manager recently asked about my mother- and father-in-law, I told her how I never heard a “Why me?” but instead witnessed an “In His Will” attitude—a never asking but thanking more. I added, “I wish I could be as firm in my faith as they are in theirs.”
David’s daily attitude reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (AMP): “Rejoice always and delight in your faith; be unceasing and persistent in prayer; in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
I could list all the Scripture verses that David lives—the Scripture he makes come alive through his daily practice—but there is not enough room in this space for that. Instead, I thank him for teaching me (and many others) through not only his words and actions, but through his heart and faith.
Albert Schweitzer said, “At times our light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
I thank David and Earlene for being that example for so many years.
Cancer and other trials, have the ability to dim our light. Today, I hold gratitude for the many people who have shown up and revived the flame within me, Andy, David and Earlene.
Gratitude is a spark for change. Sometimes it takes something hard, like cancer, to find it. In this, we can find the Light and Love we need to go on.