The memory of pearls: Emotions on Tuesdays

The world wears a halo of white in the snowy forests, morning mist magical as the cold earth collides with the sun-kissed spring air. Later in the day, the air is crystal clear, the mist burned away. The contrails of passing jets crisscross high in the pale blue sky, puffs of cloudy creatures floating up across the sun who wears a skirt of crystal haze she gathers from the earth's melting. Even the beetles are beautiful in the afternoon sun. The constant song of the returning robins lilts across the breeze. The children gather the loam of the field bracken into buckets, and plant a garden of dreams in their playhouse. Black earth in the furrows of the vegetable rows calls out to toes twitching with excitement in the summery warmth. We mamas hold tight to shovel handles and wait for the real spring, not this illusive week of March that has us dreaming of all kinds of summer wonder.

A burst of spring cleaning fervor threatens to shipwreck my dissertation dreams, but I am planted here behind keyboard, nailed down by a dream and a prayer for a May graduation. It is time for the last big push, a flurry of writing and editing that consumes every free minute not slotted for other chores. I delight in an editing phone call with my favorite person at the Writing Center for Excellence, and I tell her about my remission and her hearty, "Thank the good LAWD!" in the comforting Southern drawl is like honey dripping from the phone. It makes me stop, and remember. Remember all that happened, how my soul was shaped, how my heart was broken, how the scales were falling off my eyes in sheets and shattering around my stock-still shocked feet.

The way of mercy
Takes me to the least
Down the road of suffering
To the wedding feast

For I know that You are faithful
As we walk these fields of white
To the weary and the hurting
let Your Kingdom comes
~Faithful, David Ruis

Prayers are always answered. I woke to the worst day, and found it was a glorious day, a string of pearls - pearls plucked from the odiferous waves of gray of the oyster's shell - unfolding before my very eyes as I opened gift after gift streaming straight from the hands of the Father into my bruised heart. Just when I thought I was at the end of the necklace, another bead glistened in the warm, Indian summer sun. The morning began with waiting...but not for the radioactive treatment, rather the glorious arrival of my newest niece or nephew! Megan was admitted to the hospital Sunday night, and I couldn't believe God was granting my prayer that I be able to hold their little one before I was quarantined! I called early in the morning to see about delaying my treatment, and was told I could come anytime before 4:30 p.m. Another pearl: a beautiful, sunlit day to treasure my children, share life with them, breathe in their sights, and sounds, and smells. Fill my cup up to overflowing so I can spill some drops of joy into my barren lap on a darker day in the November that will surely come.

We went to music class and delighted together in the cacophony and chaos that is kids and music and dancing in a high-ceiling art gallery lit with eastern windows and glistening pine floors. We gloried in Kosher salt at a local deli and beautiful, crumbly goat cheese that a low-iodine Mama can feast upon. We napped together in the lazy, beetle-buzzing afternoon in the unexpected bliss of open windows and the sound of corn husks rustling in the warm, summer-like breeze. I packed my car slowly, savoring every quiet moment of the house God has given us, listening to the children sleep and staving off sorrows that threatened at every moment. Still waiting for the call announcing the birth of that beautiful babe...

Late afternoon came, and no baby. Confounding! The day was a gift just for me...brought about by the "impending birth", which didn't happen. A glorious, free day that I wasn't expecting. A drive back into the reality of the city with the children bursting at the seams from our joyous, momentous, and totally ordinary afternoon. Hugs, hugs, more hugs, holding tears in with iron bands of will as I smiled and hugged some more. Swallowing the largest lump my throat has ever known...swallowing it a hundred times, tasting it's salty bitterness, and thanking God for my afternoon of pearls. One hundred times easier to swallow the large blue horse-pill of radioactive iodine. Primed with grief and disbelief, my throat found that an easy job. Sitting in a sterile little room with my husband beside me, I stared down into a little lead canister, took out the glass vial, unscrewed the cap and tipped it back to accept this cure that threatens to be worse than the disease that now invisibly ails me. The ache of forgetting a good-bye kiss before the poison passed my lips. Walking away carefully observing the "3 foot rule".

Feeling the world open up like a chasm before me. That longed-for freedom...that abyss of unlimited choice...the silence as the "fetters" of motherhood and wifery dropped from my ankles and wrists and shattered around my feet. How shall I now live? Adrift once again in a sea of strangers. Floating along in the tide and whim of self. What moors me? What steers me? Underneath, there He is. His heart beat still propels me. My joy is still in Him. What a pearl to discover, that after all this time, and all these externally imposed guides and rigorous boundaries, I have continued to internalize the lessons He is teaching, to integrate them as part of my self and what propels me and gives me meaning. I am not adrift. My ways and means have shifted, and my purpose is the same. In this, as in all else, I am here for His glory. I exist for His service. I pray for His guiding hand. I long for His touch.

Waking next morning, the world is tasteless and odorless. The world is magically sterile, and glitters with new sparkle through my eyes, swollen and skewed from the localized effects of the radiation. There is a philosophical lack of focus, an attendant lack of agenda and timeframe; and a physical reality, an inability to perceive the visual all around me. Words and worlds are as hazy as time and duty are. Pearls of sleep, and friendship, and deep, uninterrupted drinking at the Well of meaning and Truth. I curl up by the Well for a good long rest after five years of many thirsty moments. That is what it's like to leave your life, your home, your job; everything behind you, it feels. Everything in front of you different and intimidating and wonderful all at once. For me that has been 24 hours of radioactive cancer treatment. Now, only 456 hours to go...

The bulk of this post reposted from another Tuesday, one much darker than today. All week, I'm looking back at the worst of cancer. Radiation and separation from my family for 3 long weeks. I hope you'll enjoy the trip down memory lane.


This is our Emotions on Tuesdays link up. Link up to a post, old or new, about your emotions. Tuck the graphic at the bottom of your post, and come back to share your story with all of us!