“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.” Proverbs 17:17 Christian Standard Bible
In the Monday post, I shared with you I was on my way to see my favorite uncle. He was just diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. The cancer is so rare there is very little information on it even for the medical community. Because of my own and my wife’s health issues, I have discovered in the last several years that if the disease impacts a low percentage of the population, there isn’t any money to do research. Therefore, there are no facilities putting forth any effort to discover a cure for these rare cancers and diseases.
When my aunt called to tell me about my uncle I couldn’t imagine facing him, I felt I wouldn’t be able to offer him any kind of encouragement. With all the years I have spent in hospitals comforting patients and their families, I felt I had nothing for this man I love dearly. I was sent spiraling into a darkness which left me feeling helpless. Could I make sure my uncle would know how much I love him? I had no idea how the visit was going to turn out; I knew I had to see him. The anticipated visit also raised images of trying to cope with my mom’s death from cancer. My feelings were the same then except I was only 18 and unable to cope and still carry that with me today.
As mentioned in the previous post, my uncle is the best of people. He is kind, gentle, an avid football nut, and always ready to laugh. He has always treated me like someone who was important. We arrived at his home just moments after my sister, her daughter, and the grandnieces. When I saw my uncle, his face lit up the room with the smile that would warm the foggiest of San Joaquin Valley winter mornings! We sat, we talked, we laughed, and we never once talked about the disease that is taking my uncle’s life. I realized it had been 4 years since I had visited with my Uncle and Aunt, because of my own health issues over the last several years. They had both aged considerably reminding me of our mortality. However, the atmosphere I had feared never materialized, there was just the knowing we all loved!
Over the years, my uncle and aunt have filled a spot in my life where my parents were missing. They also made an impact as friends, giving my family a place of security that had lacked in many ways because of those family schisms that sometimes develop. They opened their home to us every Thanksgiving, keeping us connected to the only relatives I have from my mom or dad, not including my sisters.
In the last several years, I have learned an amazing amount about the issue of loss. How loss affects our lives, the need we as humans have to mourn our losses no matter what they are. And what can happen when we don’t allow ourselves the absolute need to grieve every loss we experience. I’ve found that loss that is not mourned never goes away, it just continues to multiply with each succeeding loss! Another truth I have learned is loss cannot be quantified, cannot be experienced in the same way as another’s loss. It is as individual as our fingerprints. We never stop grieving those we love and lose. We never cease to miss them; we learn to cope with loss through the gift of mourning.
What we need are friends, those we know will understand who we are and who will sit with us as we seek the light in the darkness of loss. We especially need friends when we’ve lost someone we love. Among those friends is the One who “… sticks closer than a brother.” I need those friends God has provided as comforters, those who are determined to get us into the arms of Jesus no matter the obstacles!
My wife knowing my need to see my Uncle, even as I was wrestling with the demons of cancer past, made sure I would see him before it was too late. She is the best of friends who knows me better than I do myself in so many ways. The visit was indeed a process of healing as it allowed me to once more tell my uncle how very much I loved him. That was something I wasn’t able to do for my mom, therefore, the ghosts! Now we have the opportunity to hopefully lay those ghosts to rest as I believe she knew what I couldn’t say to her as she lay in ICU.
This brings us to the crutches of Grace, I have finally come to the understanding that crutches beat falling down! Whether it’s the accusation that the Christian religion is nothing more than a crutch for the weak and wounded, or it is literally a set of crutches because of a physical need, being upright beats being face-planted into the ground! I know I am going to need the crutch Jesus offers as my uncle loses his battle with cancer. I know I will need those God has provided to come alongside, the friends who will make sure I get to Jesus on those days when the loss proves to be too much!
I know everything will be fine one day, but it’s the days we experience as we wait for the final family reunion when there will never be any more losses of any kind! God the Father knows exactly what that feeling entails because he sent His Son to the Death we never have to face as His disciples! Until then, we have the responsibility to come alongside all who are experiencing losses of every kind. It is our privilege to be friends who love at all times, and be available for any difficult times others may face in their lives. We are called to be crutches, canes, walkers, or any other kind of support anyone involved in grieving might need from us as friends who love at all times! We indeed are our brother’s keepers and they in turn are ours, another gift of God’s Grace.
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction,[a] so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Holman Christian Standard Bible