This post is #150 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
Cancer doesn't take a break at Christmas time. Christmas fell on a Thursday that year, and Hannah needed platelet infusions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Hematology/Oncology Clinic at Children's was closed on Wednesday for Christmas Eve, so she actually had to be admitted to the general part of the hospital for a few hours to get her platelets. When we checked into her room, there was a beautiful plush stuffed walrus on her bed along with a booklet of word games ... Christmas gifts from some nice donor to brighten up the day of a child who had to be admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve. It took longer than usual to get her platelets since we had to go through the whole admissions process, and we were grateful to be heading home late that afternoon and looking forward to a quiet Christmas Day at home.
I woke up early the next morning and wrote out some of my thoughts in an email. By this time, there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who were reading our emails and praying for our family, and I felt a real kinship with them. Though I generally tried to be pretty transparent in my emails, I didn't share all my thoughts on that Christmas morning.
Because as I sat there in the pre-dawn hours, I knew. I knew that this would be our last Christmas together as a family of four. The cancer was taking Hannah from us bit by bit and there was nothing we could do about it.
Please don't misunderstand. This was not a crisis of faith. I knew, and I believed, that God could heal Hannah here on earth if that was His plan. But it was becoming more and more apparent to me that His plan was for us to walk beside Hannah, holding her hand, as she made her way toward Heaven. And I recognized that that was actually going to require more faith than simply believing for earthly healing.
My email from a decade ago ...
It is early on Christmas morning, and I have a few things on my heart that I want to share with all of you who have been so faithful to pray for our family over the last several months. No one else is up yet .... the girls no longer wake us up before dawn begging to open their presents...as teenagers, they would much rather sleep in, and open presents whenever they happen to wake up. We no longer have to stay up late on Christmas Eve putting toys together ... the "toys" they want now are high-tech gadgets that they have to open up and figure out how to use themselves ... we're of no help to them in that department.
We have always lived a few hours away from both sets of the girls' grandparents, so we have rarely spent Christmas Day at home over the years ... we're usually at one or the other grandparent's house, or traveling in between on Christmas Day. Circumstances did not allow us to travel this week (platelet infusions yesterday and tomorrow in Little Rock), so we will be spending all day at home, just the four of us. And while we are praying for Hannah's healing and trusting God that our family of four will spend many more Christmases together; we are fully aware that, in His sovereignty, this could be our last. And that is not only true for our family in our present circumstances, it is true for every family who is reading this email. We do not know what the future holds for any of us ... so please, this year more than ever, enjoy the time with your family, treasure the memories you make, and be sure that you know the One whose birth we celebrate on this day.
Intense fatigue seems to be Hannah's biggest battle right now...we are hoping to travel to Mountain Home and spend a couple of days with my family (my brother, sister-in-law, and niece Julia, who are missionaries in Indonesia, have just come home for a six-month furlough) after her platelet infusion on Friday. We are also hoping to spend some time with Brad's family (his sister and brother-in-law just welcomed their first baby, Faith McKinley Sartor, on Tuesday) next week. Please pray that Hannah will have the stamina to enjoy these visits ... she loves spending time with her extended family. She is due for another chemotherapy treatment next Wednesday (New Years' Eve), and we assume that is the source of the fatigue she is experiencing.
How can we ever thank all of you for all of the prayers, cards, emails, calls, visits, gifts, meals, etc.? Your love and support has carried all of us through this journey, and we will be forever grateful.
A dear friend once told me that God's grace is like a fitted sheet ... .He gives you just enough to fit your particular mattress. This friend knows the truth of that statement, too, as she and her husband lost their baby girl to meningitis several years ago. God's grace is sufficient ... and He is truly good, all the time.
Wishing you all a blessed Christmas,
A few pictures from Christmas 2008 ...