Even after nearly four years of this grief thing, some days are still just hard.
Today is one of those days.
You see, five years ago, on Valentine's Day 2008, is when it all began. That's the first day we had any indication that was something not quite right was going on with Hannah. When she got up that morning with a headache so severe it made her nauseous, I assumed she had a sinus infection or maybe had caught some kind of virus. And when, after a nap, she woke up feeling fine, I was sure that whatever it was was aleady behind us.
Until the next day, when the same thing happened again. And again the next day, when the headache lasted beyond the morning hours.
I have such a vivid memory of standing in the pain reliever aisle at Walmart, searching for something that might help her headaches. As I pawed through all the bottles of Excedrin, Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, and aspirin, I had the strangest sinking feeling that none of these medications would really help. Somehow I just knew that these were not normal headaches.
I remember her calling me from school on the Monday after Valentine's Day, asking me to come pick her up from school. She said her head was really hurting and that she was seeing double. As we discussed whether or not she really needed to come home, a teacher came into the office where she was on the phone and I could hear her teasingly say, "Oh, Hannah, you're okay ... You don't need to go home." And she said to me, "I'll be okay, Mom ... I don't need to come home." We said good-bye and I hung up the phone ... and I felt that eerie sinking feeling again. I almost raced up there and got her, but talked myself out of it.
When she came home that afternoon, she told me that she had been seeing double, but "just sometimes, not all the time", and as she said that, I looked into her eyes ... and for the first time, I noticed how abnormally dilated her pupils were. I tried to keep the rising panic off my face, because I didn't want to scare her, but I knew something was wrong. As soon as Brad came home from work, I pulled him aside and told him what she had told me and what I had noticed about her eyes. He saw it too, and we decided she needed to see a doctor the next day.
Things snowballed from there, and within 48 hours of that decision, we were informed that our 16-year-old daughter had a tumor the size of a small egg right in the center of her brain. That's when we began the year-long roller coaster of surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy protocols, every-other-day platelet infusions, and hospital stays.
Fast forward to Valentine's Day 2009. I can still see my beautiful girl, now 17, reclining weakly in her favorite chair ... baby-soft peach fuzz regrowing on her head now that all the treatments had been discontinued ... thanking her daddy multiple times for the roses he sent her. The cancer, which was regrowing like her hair, was making her like an octogenarian with Alzheimer's ... every time she caught a glimpse of those roses, it was like she was receiving them for the first time.
Two days later, we rushed her to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, and twelve days later, she was with Jesus.
And so we come to today. Valentine's Day 2013. Hannah has been fully healed for almost four years now, yet we are still in the throes of the healing process. Will we ever be fully healed? Not until we join her in Heaven one day. We've come so far over these past few years, but days like this really make me yearn for that great reunion.
I'll be back at the gym tonight cheering Bethany and the Lady Panthers on in their quest for a district championship. There's only one place I would rather be on this Valentine's evening, and since God is apparently not finished with me yet, I will choose to enJOY the blessings He has given me here on earth while I'm waiting!
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40:1-2