The day before yesterday we received the hard news that my mom's cancer is growing and spreading at a rapid rate. Without miraculous intervention, she may not have many good days left. It's a reality that we have all been living with for the past two years, but each report brings even more clarity to the reality: My mother is dying.
It's sad. But not tragic.
The distinction between the sad and the tragic has been one of the most tangible and valuable gifts I brought home with me from India.
My sweet mother is 55 years old. She's been fighting terminal lung cancer for more than two years now, and the fight has not been easy. At various points on this journey she's been poked, prodded, drilled, radiated, poisoned, medicated, sleepless, exhausted, uncomfortable, in pain and SICK. And after all of this, aside from God's direct and supernatural intervention, she will still die of cancer. It is sad. It's not the way it's supposed to be.
But it's not tragic. Tragic is the 2-year-old child drugged and stuffed under a bed while his mother sells her body day after day. Tragic is the woman with acid burns scarring her arms, too terrified to flee an abuser worse than what most of us could imagine. Tragic is the shriveled, dying man, lying utterly alone in the dust and filth of a Kolkata street. Most tragically of all, these people and millions more are living in real despair, without the hope of Jesus Christ. This is true tragedy.
The life of Vicki Dees is not tragic. Her life is 55 years stuffed-to-the-brim full of hope, love, faith, joy, happiness, peace and trust. She has loved and been loved. Her life is also an eternity stretching out in front of her- an eternity that's far more amazing than anything our little human minds could conjure up.
I don't know what the weeks and months out in front of us will hold. God has done so many miraculous things with her life already that I don't really have any reason to believe that He won't continue to do so. But worthless speculation aside, I do know that the days ordained for the beautiful life of Vicki Dees were set long ago, and there's really no good to be found in trying to figure out how many days that's going to be. If she lives three more weeks or 30 more years, it's all pretty short in light of eternity.
I think it's okay to be sad about this process of saying "goodbye" or rather, "see you later!" I certainly hope it's okay, because I've had a lot of sad days in the last two years. But the amazing gift of perspective God gave me in India has really helped me to see my mom's life in a new light.
If our all-knowing, all-powerful, utterly good and wise God allows my mom to die of cancer sometime in the near future, it will be sad. It will be hard. But life will go on. Both for her and for me! For her, she's going to be checking into a new home in heaven that is overflowing with treasures she's been sending that way since long before I was born.
For me, there's life after cancer. There's a husband to love, children to nurture, a Church to serve and a world in need of the Gospel. And I'm forever thankful that I've had such a beautiful example of just how to go about doing all of those things and more by faith.
After we returned to Fallbrook from San Diego, we reunited with the kids by spending the next day at Disneyland together!
Disney does it right. The whole day was truly magical for Maximus and Maggie!
Maggie plays along with a little bluegrass band. She loved it!
We just happened to be in the right place at the right time for Maggie to have a completely magical moment meeting Cinderella. Several parents had warned us not to promise Maggie that she would get to meet the princesses because you often have to wait more than an hour in line to meet them and sometimes it's not worth it to spend that much of your day waiting. BUT... Cinderella just happened to show up just as we were leaving the Turtle Talk with Crush attraction. Maggie RAN up to her and hugged her long and hard. My little girl was totally star-struck.
After she said goodbye to Cinderella and came back over to me, I asked her if Cinderella had said anything to her. Maggie said in a hushed whisper of reverence (which many of you know is NOT normal for Maggie!): "No, she touched my face and kissed me." What a sweet moment for my little one!
After several hours at the park, we took a break and met up with Lucas' brother Joe and his wife Tammy, Lucas' Grandma Norris and Aunt Debbie, and our friend Jim for dinner at Downtown Disney. We loved getting to see all of them!
Jim is our Disney hero. We've become friends with him over the past few
years via Jake and Laura, and he is such an awesome guy. Even if he didn't use his
Disney management position to get us free tickets to the Mouse House. :-) Thanks, Jim!
After dinner, we actually took the kids back into the park to squeeze a bit more fun out of the day. We were there on Jacob and Laura's 10th anniversary, so we finished our magical day on the Jungle Cruise in honor of them. This is where Jacob proposed to Laura (with quite a bit of elaborate scheming and planning!) over ten years ago. Of course, they were in beautiful Hawaii celebrating on their own, but we got our little bit of celebrating in ourselves in honor of their big marriage milestone. We left a little song on Laura's voicemail while in line for the cruise:
Happy Anniversary to you,
Happy Anniversary to you,
In honor of your big day,
We're on the Jungle Cruise!
or something like that. :-)
All in all, a VERY magical day. Like I said, Disney knows how to do it right. We were so thankful for these awesome memories with our kids!
Our lease is up on our current home in July, and we are trying to decide whether we can buy now or whether we should rent for another year first. We've been looking at some different properties, so of course the kids have been coming along, too. Today they saw one they really loved. Here's our conversation in the car on the way home:
Max: I really, really want to get this one! It has two fireplaces and one chimney!
Me: Buying a house is a big decision. I'm not sure if we will be able to get this one.
Max: Why not?
Me: Well, first of all, we have to see how much it will cost and see if we have enough money.
Max: Awwww. I really want it.
Me: Well, you can ask God about it. If you ask Him for it and it is good for us to have it, then He will give it to you. He loves to give you good things.
Maggie: (Before Max could respond) Dear God, please yet me buy dis house. Thanks.
Lucas: Maggie, you could say 'amen' at the end.
Maggie: (Loudly) I not talkin' to you! I talkin' to Jesus!
Lucas and I had the immense treat of enjoying 3 days/ 2 nights on a little getaway to downtown San Diego with just the two of us while Max and Maggie stayed with Grandpa and Abuelita. We had such a good time.
We got a great price on a swanky hotel in the Gaslamp district of San Diego, and when the hotel's host heard we were having an early anniversary celebration, she had champaign and chocolate-covered strawberries sent to our room. How great!
While in the city, we walked along the marina, went to see a movie, did some shopping, visited the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier, and enjoyed a fancy dinner out at The Melting Pot.
After 7 years of marriage, it's nice to still enjoy the person you married. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Even in the midst of the ups and downs of life, Lucas and I still like each other. Most of the time. :-) That's really nice, and I'm thankful.
While we were away partying, the kids were having a blast, too. Grandpa and Abuelita took them to LEGOland! We don't have any pictures yet because they are on the grandparents' camera... but the kids were sure fired up about the special time they had while we were gone!
On our first full day staying in Fallbrook with Chaney and Mary, we spent a glorious day at Oceanside beach. It was Maximus and Maggie's first time to visit the sea.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, here's one that sums up how we all felt about the beach:
Lucas and I arrived at the beach about an hour before Chaney and Mary and Elisa (Mary's mom), who were coming in another vehicle. While Lucas was gone to meet up with them and bring them to where we were, I was sitting on the beach alone, watching the kids play in the sand. This is what I saw:
I'm not quite sure what it was– It might have been the look of pure happiness on their faces, combined with that fresh salty breeze and the sound of the tide rolling in and out. Perhaps it was the cute way that Max poked a tiny pinky-sized hole in every sand castle to make a door and then examined it closely to answer some unspoken curiosity in his mind. Or maybe it was just the simple beauty of a moment with my children that will always be locked away in my heart. Whatever it was, the tears just started rolling down my cheeks.
It felt right– like salty tears of happiness were at home by the sea. I'll never forget it.
First stop on Roebuck Road Mania 2010: Roswell, New Mexico. We left Siloam Springs at about 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night and drove 10 hours through the night to the home of Bill and Polly, Laura's parents. They are the king and queen of hospitality. We enjoyed a lovely day and evening with them– the kids loved running and playing in their yard, and it worked out well that they didn't have to sit in the car for 10+ hours straight two days in a row.
Laura's sister, Joy, and her husband, Brent came over for dinner and brought their oh-so-adorable little guy Sealy. (Hmmmm.... Hope I'm spelling that correctly...) He is PRECIOUS. Here's a picture of him with Bill and Polly. Anyway, it was just so great to be the beneficiaries of the legendary Hartman Hospitality.
We won't mention how Lucas was blowing chunks the whole time we were there. Poor guy. But we will mention how thankful we all were that whatever he had, the rest of us somehow avoided. [Insert huge sigh of relief].
Day 2: White Sands National Monument
Day 2 on the road was a LONG day in the car, about 15 hours. Thankfully, the kids were really fantastic travelers. We only had to reprimand Max about four times for whining, "WHY is it taking so long?" Overall, not bad for a 2-yr-old and 4-yr-old.
On the road from Roswell to Calexico, California, we stopped at White Sands National Monument. It was the brightest place I have ever been. Like somebody-get-me-some-heavy-duty-sunglasses-or-I'm-going-to-be-forced-to-scrape-my-eyes-out bright.
I didn't have any sunglasses. But I decided against the scraping my eyes out thing, after considering both the pain and the inconvenience of that particular option.
Other than the extreme brightness, the sky was bluer and the sand whiter than anything I've ever seen either. The sand was so white, and there was so much of it, that this is what Maggie did as soon as she was out of her car seat:
Sand Angels. Interesting.
This little maneuver brought quite a bit of sand back into the car with us upon our departure. Oh, well.
Found a shady spot with my favorite little buddy.
We may or may not have given them something sweet
in order to produce this show of sibling affection.
Day 3: Calexico, California
Late, late, late at the end of Day 2's long drive we arrived in Calexico, California, the border town between Mexico and California. The town on the Mexico side of the border is Mexicali. I know, so creative, right?
We would have arrived a decent hour in Calexico if not for the fact that we got stopped on the freeway while the military was doing some missile testing in the Middle Of Nowhere, New Mexico. Some guys in orange vests slowed us all down, and then proceeded to park us all on the highway like a parking lot.
Then we sat there for about an hour, parked on the highway, and watched some explosions in the distance. Then they dismissed us from our parking places. Only we still couldn't move our car because the guy parked in front of us was sound asleep. I found the whole thing really hilarious.
So.... late, late, late that night we arrived at the home of Tio Manlio and Tia Alva, Lucas' Dad's brother and his wife. Lucas' Dad and Maria met us there and we enjoyed a day with Manlio and Alva.
Alva has some sweet little granddaughters a little younger than Maggie, and she was kind enough to share her girls' princess booty with Maggie. Maggie thought perhaps we had already arrived at Disneyland. She pranced around the house all day just as happy as she could be!
Manlio owns a large tree nursery in Calexico. The kids loved checking out the nursery and learning about plants that grow in the desert and looking at all the palm trees:
Lucas with his Uncle Manlio and Aunt Alva
After we left Manlio and Alva's, we header further west still toward Fallbrook in North San Diego county, where Lucas' Dad and Maria live. On the way, we stopped at this cool stone monument house on top of a mountain:
Coming soon to a blog near you: Maximus and Maggie's first day at the beach!