Murphys, CA…Today is one of two days each month when my 9-year-old son, Jonah, does not stay with me here at home. I usually spend a lot of time crying, mostly because it’s my only true opportunity to fall apart. Certainly it would be appropriate – even expected! – if I slightly looked forward to these nights. After all, I’m a single mother… I work… I have a health battle going on… It would not be surprising to need a night to myself. But I don’t. Not even a little. I think Jonah and I are figuring out that our relationship brings us great comfort, because no one can wholly relate to our life except for us.
Though cancer adds a very unique and dramatic dimension to our lives, I would guess that it is a good lesson for everyone. It is so common to judge others, especially parents and the decisions they make regarding their children. In fact, for that reason, I became a much better teacher once I had my own child. As he grew and changed and my parenting style evolved, I found myself abandoning preconceived ideas of how I would react in certain situations. From Day One, when I chose to never once use the crib and wonderfully decorated bedroom I had prepared for Jonah, and brought him into my room, these “adjustments” began to occur.
I certainly didn’t ever imagine how I would handle the journey we are on right now. Honestly, I never even considered this turn of events! Stage IV Melanoma changes everything. This is uncharted territory, and I’m just feeling my way through it. Sometimes I am presented with questions from Jonah that are pretty intense. Everything from the words I choose and my tone, to my facial expression and body language are important. I don’t have any “prep time,” like you might have before another type of important speech. My love for him demands honesty. My concern for his childlike spirit requires sensitivity. And all I can do is the best I can do. How horribly inadequate that must be!
Jonah asked me something about the way we do things in our house. He wondered if other kids his age did things the same way, or if he was he strange. What a great opportunity he gave me to assure him of how fabulous he is, and how much God loves him and needs him to be exactly the way he is. I also got to remind him that we do not make our life choices based on the choices of others. We make our decisions based on what it is right for us, within God’s Word. There is no way any other parent or child can compare themselves to us, because no one is walking this road with us. We can always learn from each other, and be inspired by one another, but we will never fully understand the drive behind every dimension within a family. Each one is wonderfully unique.
I recently compiled a list of questions for Jonah. To be honest, I didn’t design the questions to help him in any way. I just thought it might be cute or interesting the way he answered things. Not surprisingly, most of his responses were adorable. But one answer stood out to me so significantly that it led me to writing this article. The question was: “Do you feel different from other kids now? And, if so, how?” He responded, “Yes. Because they don’t worry about their parents.”
Doesn’t that break your heart?
It also rings so true! Even at my age, I still don’t worry about my parents. They are invincible, right? As a child, you gratefully are not even able to conceive of something happening to your parents. I would bet that children who have thus far been shielded from tragedy never have the same worry as Jonah. Now I must add in here, that Jonah naturally is a worrier. He demands that we arrive everywhere ridiculously early; he has to be totally clear on his daily schedule; he always desires to have a clear picture of what is “going to happen” and how. (Hmm… kind of controlling… I wonder where he gets that…?) Okay, so you all know I’m a “silver lining” kind of girl. So where can the good in a little boy needing to worry about his mama be?
Well, first of all, we adults can learn from him. Jesus tells us that unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).
Second, Jonah has become fully submissive to God (James 4:7-10). I am still working on that! (When I had my stroke, and was lying on the ground, unable to speak or move, I got a crash course in it!) One of the other questions I asked Jonah was: “What, if anything, do you think God is doing for mom right now?” He answered, “Protecting her.” So, despite worries, he knows who is truly taking care of me (Jeremiah 29:11).
Third, I can help teach him how to let go of anxiety. I can perhaps only do that in theory, because I myself am still working on it in many ways. But we can do it together, through prayer and worship. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Last, and perhaps I won’t get the chance to fully appreciate and enjoy it, but Jonah will be an amazing man. He will have compassion and a true understanding of suffering. As he continues to walk with self-control and love and humility, God will grace him with a deep well of strength from which to draw throughout his life (1 Peter 5:10). So, though it is not a path I would ever choose for Jonah and myself, and these sharp tools that God is using on us really hurt, I am proud of the attributes that Jonah and I are developing. Jonah, already an amazing jewel, is becoming polished and sparkles with His Light more than I’d ever imagined.
Editors Note…Catherine’s fight with cancer and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many. If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.