Friday the 13th was a good day. Nate was home, Easter goodies were prepared, eggs were painted. The day was filled with the usual laundry, childrearing, food prep, and general housekeeping work. Nothing special, but everything good.
Monday April 13 2009 was another good day. I walked into the chemo room for the last time. For the eighth and final time I sat down in the beige recliners, pulled down my shirt collar so the nurses could put the needles into my port, and started chewing the tic-tacs to cover the taste of saline, anti-nausea medicine, and Taxotere. For the last time I looked around at the bookshelf with light literature and mostly current magazines, the box full of crocheted hats under the table, and the flyers for TLC, a company that makes wigs, hats, and scarves. The next day I would come back for one last painful shot of Neulasta, to keep my white blood cell count up. The shot always hurt going in, and my bones would ache for three days. But it was the last time.
I remember hoping that this treatment would be scheduled before Easter. It would feel good, and symbolic, to have this part behind me, to enter fully into the triumphant celebration of the resurrection. But actually, I think it's more appropriate the way it was.
It's often said that we live on the Saturday before Easter: Jesus has died for us, but hasn't returned to the earth for the final time in power. We are still waiting for the full promise. It's more accurate to say that we are living on Easter Monday, Tuesday, and every day after that. We know Jesus died for us, rose again, and defeated death in that moment. Now we wrestle with what to do after that, when each Monday morning rolls around again.
We live in a world where the "resurrection power" is not fully realized, and will not be until Jesus returns. Like the disciples, we try to go about our lives with the hope and knowledge that Jesus rose from the dead: as we gather together, as we walk along the road, as we go back to the lake, before breakfast, trying to find ... something that will help it all make sense. In the Bible, Jesus shows up at random, odd moments: in an upstairs room, along the road to Emmaus, by the Sea of Galilee, where he is cooking fish. That is how the resurrection power expressed itself to the disciples. I think I would have been expecting something more dramatic. (Although after the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, the drama did pick up).
The world is still full of suffering. People get cancer and MS. Children are hurt. Marriages break apart. Tornadoes destroy homes and communities. Daily life is filled with the sandpaper irritation of living with fellow sinners. What do we do with all this? Jesus rose from the dead, we know the eventual end of the story, so why isn't life better?
I don't have any profound answers for this, but the past three years have made a few things more clear. First, Jesus was honest about the reality of suffering. "In this world," he said, "You will have trouble." He never gives false hope. So, the next words are also true: "But take heart; I have overcome the world." Second, many people, including myself, can say that it is in the hard experiences of life that we can feel God's support most clearly. There are no more illusions that I am in control. God has to carry it all, which is how it should be since "underneath are the everlasting arms."
And finally, I think God is always trying to help us grow, and strengthen our trust and faith. Like muscles, they have to be worked so they can become stronger. It can hurt, and it usually does. Why is it set up this way? I have no idea. But in the end, as a Christian, I trust that God's plan is best, and he will give me strength. Even on Monday mornings.