Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Pain Will End

Before this whole relapse, we were barreling toward a goal. Time could not move fast enough because we were racing toward the finish line of Ava's treatment. Ava's one year transplant anniversary was quickly approaching and so was her debut back to school. We were making all kinds of plans to travel now that she was allowed to be out in public after one year of limited contact with the outside world due to her immunosuppressed state.

In one instant our plans changed and now we are gripping time in a death vice willing it to slow down. I'm savoring the days, the getting up and stretching, the kneeling down and praying, the getting breakfast, the appointments and schedules that shift with each day, the eating dinner, the playing, the baths, the bed time stories, and even the late night chatter that lingers long past bedtime. It's a gift. It's a gift. I keep telling myself this. So there are days I am so thankful for God's faithfulness to us and there is a peace that settles into the cracks of my devastated heart.

Yet there are days that are painful still. No matter how much we slow it down, things are still moving too fast. Now that Ava goes to school, time is even more precious and limited. I've tried to talk her out of going. It's not that great, I tell her. Because I'm such a great mom, I try to convince her to stay home and play with me. But she won't have any of that, not Ava. She carefully puts her homework away in her folder and tells me it's time for bed because she has to wake up for school. Oh God, it is so hard to share her.

They wanted a bedtime story the other day but it was getting so late. I told them, "There's always tomorrow." The weight of grief after those words was substantial and it shushed me into silence. The truth is, we can't rely on tomorrow. We only have today. It's not a lot but it's what we have, so we squeeze the heck out of it. She wants to hold the baby during his nap time so I quickly bring him into the room for cuddles because we only have today. Jeremy Lin invites us to a basketball game. We are graciously given choices: this Friday or Dec 5th? We choose sooner because we only have today. We expedite the Disney trip we had planned for February to this Tuesday...We only have today.

A few days ago we dropped Ava off for her first day of school. She flashed us her toothy grin with her four permanent teeth growing in all crazy and kissed us goodbye. Then she was off, walking down the long hall toward her independence. Mike, Gwen, and I sort of slumped back to the car and then decided to go to IHOP to quell the emptiness a bit. We asked for a booth for three and sat down to order breakfast. "I miss Ava. I want to go see her," Gwen said as soon as she sat down. And instantly, before I could even stop it, my mind had gone to a place where Ava was no longer here. It was a fierce pain to imagine a day when we would long for her, to kiss her, stroke her soft cheeks, tousle her wavy hair, and want to hear that laugh that captures our attention and our hearts, yet without any consolation we would have to gulp down the bitter reality of her absence.

I'll let myself go there sometimes. I can't stay there long but I feel like I need to visit these feelings to prepare myself. I think about how this could be our last Thanksgiving, our last Christmas, our last vacation, our last...I'll drive down the street and wonder how we will stay in this neighborhood if she is gone. I stare at her from across the kitchen counter while she talks and I burn her image into my head because I fear there will be a day I frantically look for her and my memory will be the only way to see her. 

I reason with myself that maybe if I can slowly ease into this pain, it won't hurt so much if the time comes. It's the most stupid exercise I've ever participated in. There is no such thing as being prepared to live life without my first born child. And my precious Gwen. How will she cope? She is already lost, wandering the house looking for her sister when she's away at school. How do we tell her that no matter how hard we search, we won't find her here anymore? There is no amount of practice that will soften the blow. And then I break down, right there in the car, like a crazy person. Tears streaking down and the same sentence on repeat, "I can't, Lord. I can't, Lord. I can't."

I'm beginning to see that I don't have to. I'm not called to imagine the worst to see if I can deal with it. God has no expectations for me to do this well. He knows this pain. He once endured it himself. So he doesn't need me to explain to him how much this hurts. 

My sister-in-law recently had her second baby and Ava was really concerned when we talked about a complication she had while giving birth.

"Is it really painful?" she asked. I nodded "Yes." 

"Well, the pain will end. Right, mama? And now baby Stephen is here!" she said.

Yes, My Love. The pain will end. It will always end. Maybe not on this side of heaven but there will be a time and a place where there will be no more room for pain. And the pain that was allowed will produce something so beautiful that, one day when the purpose is revealed, we will step back speechless and with hands raised we will praise the Father for his perfect handiwork and marvel at all that he has done. 

After the excitement of meeting Jeremy Lin, the girls fell asleep in the car and so we transferred them over to bed with their #teamavabright shirts still on. It was a good reminder to wake up to. This season of pain is so excruciating but, God, truly let it only be a moment in time. We pray for unending joy to rise up with the morning sun.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." Revelation 21:4


We have found another lump under Ava's lip. We won't be able to biopsy it before our trip to Disney because it will require a plastic surgeon. Please, please pray with us that it is absolutely NOT leukemia or any other type of malignancy. Thank you so much for your prayers.


mel said...

i weep with you and also share with you the joy of experiencing the greatest of loves through your beautiful children. you are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Pray for the kids enjoy their time in Disney. Pray for the good memories will help your family cure the pain.

Unknown said...

Praying for you all.... Deb

Anonymous said...

We just heard of Ava's story on Friday. I am so sorry. We just found out that she goes to the same school that my son goes to. He is also seven. He prayed for Ava. We will pray for her healing and for strength for your family.

JIAYI said...

Hi Ava n family. Im amazed the strength that God provides all these while for u all. Understand how it is like..
In 2014, my mum was diagnosed with stage4 brain cancer. N in 2015, my dad is diagnosed the same illness as Ava, Acute myeloid leukemia. It is hard to handle n endure everything. Together, we hope in God n not give up. God bless u all.