For years now I've believed that the most beautiful word in the english language is empathy. It holds so much more meaning than just sympathy. It's really feeling someone else's pain and hurt. Making it your own- letting it overwhelm you until it consumes-It's your pain, your anguish. Christ was the epitome of empathy in the Garden of Gethsemane. He who never new the anguish of sin or despair took upon Himself all the ugliness that this world encompasses. I cannot fathom the depth of physical, mental and spiritual despair He must have felt.
Cancer is the ugliest word in our language. It's demoralizing and degrading. It forms the ugliest of symbiotic bonds- it eats away that which feeds and nourishes it. It is a cannibalistic monster. I've witnessed it turn the strongest of men into the weakest of children. It is a liar, for it gives hope to those few in remission and then ravages their body and soul when it returns. Cancer took both my grandfathers, but they were men who had lived full lives and while their deaths were very painful and sad, they were not tragic like the deaths of two teenage friends who fought and fought and fought until eventually their young bodies could take no more. I remember clearly the day that I got the call from my 15 year old sister saying that they had found a watermellon size tumor in her abdomen. I was in the car. I held on while she told me, but as soon as the call ended I broke into hysterical tears..not MY sister, my other half to my soul. Watching her go through that experience, being by her side at Primary Children's hospital where angels truly walk the halls day in and day out, taught me empathy. Watching my parents hold each other and cry as the nurses wheeled her into the O.R., not knowing if she'd ever come back out or if an even worse death sentence was about to be pronounced on her depending on what they found inside, taught me empathy. Watching her struggle through the next months of recovery taught me empathy. Seeing the other children at that wonderful hospital who didn't receive the good news we did, those whose tumors weren't benign, taught me empathy.
Apparently we are never supposed to stop acquiring empathy, for it seems that we are constantly bombarded with the reality of pain and illness and tribulation. For the last few months our family has witnessed a husband letting go of a beloved spouse, forced to watch her body and mind slowly disintegrate. I cannot fathom watching the same happen to my sweetie. Then, shortly after, the news that my uncle has stage 4 lung cancer. My mom is not a particulary demonstrative or emotional person, but the pressure of being so strong while taking him to the myriad of testing and appointments that have ensued over the last 3 months has worn her down on many occasions and it breaks my heart to hear the tears and pain in her voice as she gives me updates. She is truly a saint.
My sweet uncle is not married, has no children of his own, and is blind and mostly deaf. Every Friday he has a standing lunch date with his ladies, his mother and my mom. We call it "lunch with the dream team". Probably the most endearing quality my uncle has is his love for my grandma, for the tenderness he shows her in his actions and words, a tenderness that lies behind a usually rough and "man's man" exterior. My heart breaks for my grandma. No one should have to witness a child's pain, and yet she has had to see so much. One son was lost shortly after birth, all 6 children almost died from the same blood disease which infested the rest of her family, and then all remaining sons began losing their eyesight and hearing as just young men. I remember shortly after Noah was diagnosed with RP, we went to visit grandma and she wept as she shared her own pain and guilt over passing along this disease to all her children, and the effects that it had on their lives. I was moved beyond words when she cried for her great-grandson and the fight that he had ahead of him, and she mourned with us the loss of the future we had anticipated with us. I sometimes forget probably the greatest challenges of her life, losing her father at a very young age, and then nursing my sweet grandpa through the many years that he fought his cancer. How can one person stand so much?
My uncle has a very long fight ahead. Please pray for him, for the doctors that attend him and for the family who loves him. I know there is a plan for each of us, and that this battle is part of the plan for my uncle. There's a lot of peace in knowing that in the end, Heavenly Father loves us more than any of us can comprehend with our human minds, and that because of the perfect empathy of His Son, all the pain and suffering will one day end and we'll be able to live with Him again.