“Dear Joy”

Hi Joy!

I imagine that of this moment you’re experiencing something akin to that which has been so beautifully captured in your photos – travels with Mike and family, quality time spent with friends, the enjoyment of delicious treats, and just the freedom from any sort of worry, fear, or pain.  Paradise.  But if heaven can be defined by that place in which God’s glory and presence is most fully manifest, it must be even that much richer.  Having just learned last night that your earthly father was not much of a presence in your (or at least your brother’s) lives, it must be great to be experiencing the fullness of God’s fatherhood in your life.

Joy, I am so sorry for what you had to go through over the past year and especially these past couple of weeks since the stroke.  It’s nearly unfathomable to imagine what you went through.  I imagine that among everything else you experienced, the lost hope of “immediate” healing coupled with the inability to speak were two of the very worst you experienced.  Even as I say that, I can’t even begin to imagine the physical pain you must have endured.  Or even, at times, the fear of the unknown.  I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.  My hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit ministered intimately and powerfully to you during this time.  I imagine that you have come to know firsthand the great depths of human suffering and through it, the even greater power and comfort of the Father’s love.  I imagine that were you able to speak, you would have blessed us with treasures “unspeakable”.

I don’t know if you heard me last night.  But I finally decided to man up, hold your hand, and say a few words to you, one of which was that I’m sorry for being a bad brother-in-law and for being a coward, not taking more initiative to talk with you.  I wonder if coward was the right word.  I’d probably add selfish to it as well.  A mix of the two probably do get at why I wasn’t a better brother to you.  As you mentioned in the past, my family certainly has dysfunctions which I could easily choose to blame for my actions.  But I know, as you know, that every family has dysfunctions.  The question is whether I was willing to do anything about it, even if it meant displaying a seemingly enormous amount of courage, humility, and selflessness in the every-day moments.  Even if it were to just ask how you were doing or what was going on in your life.  I assured you (last night) that I would do things differently because of you.  I’m not exactly sure what this looks like.  They may be baby steps.  They may be giant leaps.  Probably both.  For me, they would still probably be one and the same.  Either way, I do hope that by the time I join you in heaven, I will have grown enough to get up off of the bed to ask you about you.  To get up out of “my room” and get to know my sister-in-law!

Joy.  I’m not sure if you noticed.  But a couple of times on my Facebook status, I shared how you “inspire” me.  Inspire is a big word.  It’s a word that comes closer than most to that which I hope to do in my own life.  Inspire.  And yet, that’s exactly what you did do.  While we surely trust in and submit to the sovereign will of God, I had come to see in you a “mountain” of faith which hoped and fought for complete healing this side of the resurrection.  I think it was only a couple of weeks back when you sat across our dining table high-fiving with my wife at the notion of travelling our favorite places together as a family once you got better.  When stopped at a medical crossroad, in the face of all of the suffering that you had already endured, you chose to hope, to fight again…even more valiantly.  This was just days before you would experience your stroke.  How devastating it must have been.  The morning of your daughter’s big birthday party.  Mother’s Day weekend.  And I’m sure if we could’ve caught glimpse of your soul, seemingly trapped within your failing body, you were fighting still!  Rest Joy.  Your “fight” has inspired many.

Thank you for all of the times you’ve empowered me…your brother-in-law, “the pastor”.  The encouraging words following a sermon preached, your enthusiasm after having shared the glorious good news with friends, your willingness to seek the “wisdom” of a younger brother-in-law.  As much weight as you may have placed upon me as your “pastor” brother-in-law, it is ironically you who has ended up doing most of the pastoring in our relationship. =P  Thank you.  Be encouraged!  Your life will continue to inspire me, and I don’t doubt many others, for however long I have left of my brief time here.  A legacy.  That’s what you have left for me.  A legacy that will live on in eternity.

As you shared your delight in all things Seattle, you gave us all the confirmation we needed to book our flight.  Not quite sure whether it was the right decision or not, once you started sharing of your time there, I knew it would no longer be just another visit to a new city, but a way for us to experience personally that which left an indelible mark on your heart.  I can’t help but to remember how compelled you were to share about your time there with Mike and your love for the city.  It was almost as if for that moment, we were all lifted beyond the realities of your cancer.  (Thank you for the discount links you sent us right after we dropped you off!)  I can’t wait!  Oh, that we could all walk the streets of Seattle together!  One day we shall!!

Oh, and by the way, I just found out last night that you gave yourself the name Joy (upon receiving your citizenship).  I just want to tell you that you did a great job with it.  It’s perfect in so many ways!  Maybe one day you can share with us why you chose it. =)

I love you!

Steve

A Stroke of Inspiration

Whether with words, letters, hugs, or gifts, the ability to express oneself to another is perhaps the greatest gift of all.  Just in this past hour, I’ve had the great privilege of helping my kids get ready for their day.  Where on many occasions I find myself at whatever cost scrambling to get them through the doors of their school on time, today was different.  I was able to exude in my presence a sense of peace, gentleness, and love.  As they exited the car, I wished them a great day, assuring to them with a look of promise and delight, “I love you guys!!”  Sitting down at my cafe of choice, I did what I always do before getting to my day’s “work”.  I messaged my wife to see if she got to work safely.  And as always, I felt a sense of relief and gratitude.  Upon sending her some messages of affection and assurance, along with a humorous meme or two, here I am find myself on my laptop doing with you what we so often take for granted.  Express ourselves.  Communicate.

Watching the unraveling of my sister-in-law’s body and being at the hands of cancer has not been easy.  So much so that I now feel a part of that special community which exists only for those who have experienced it up close and personally.  Pain, fear, weakness, nausea, discomfort, anxiety…  Faith, hope, anxiety, joy, hopelessness, anxiety,  faith, joy, hope, faith…  STROKE… (speechless!)

Trying to place myself in her shoes, I can’t help but to wonder what she must be thinking, what she must be feeling.  (Oh, to be able to tell the doctors how much pain I’m in.  To be able to tell my husband to turn off the lights, to turn on the lights, to scratch my upper lip.  Oh, to be able to hold my daughter’s hand, to make her eyes light up, to tell her how much mommy loves her.  Oh, to be able to tell her the words I’ve been waiting to say.  To share of my dreams and plans I had for and with her when I finally did get better.  Oh, to be able to express my frustrations, resentments, and angers.  To be able to make amends for that which I  wish I could take back.  Oh, to let others know that I actually AM “here” and not “on another planet!”  How I wish to be alone, not having to witness myself becoming “extinct”, being increasingly “replaced” by others.  How I wish to be smothered in hugs…to feel your bodies next to mine.)  There are hardly words to describe what this state of existence must feel like.  It hurts to even try.

Communication.  The ability to express oneself.  To clothe one’s thoughts in words, hugs, posture…sacrifice.  How unfortunate that it it must too often take something like this to recognize the beauty, power, privilege, and necessity of communication.  If we exist to love, all we have is a means for that.  Let not another word go unspoken.  Let not another hug go un-given.  Let not another sacrifice go unmade.  Let not another cry go unheard.  It may not always be easy.  It may not always be comfortable.  It may take great intentionality, even great courage.  But we must.  The alternative is simply too costly.