I found out by reading a post by her husband on Facebook. It almost felt like a prank--a cruel, horrible prank. "Haha, everyone, we don't have cancer - gotcha!" As I read the words, though, I felt memories flooding back... From the night my sister called me to tell me she had cancer, almost 4 years ago to the day. It felt surreal then. It STILL feels surreal sometimes.
As I've prayed for my friend and her family, those memories keep coming back... I've tried to think of what my sister needed from her friends--what WE needed, as well--and figure out practical ways to provide those things for her, for them.
Here are some things I remember....
1) AVOID CLICHE'S
Oh my word. I heard the phrase "God won't give you more than you can handle" more times than I can count. The HORRIBLE thing about this statement is that it's NOT TRUE!!!! NOWHERE in Scripture does it say this. And knowing that God doesn't say it made it far more OK for me to run to Papa God and crumble in His arms. HE handles it, not me. (See my rant on this here.)
2) KEEP COMMUNICATING
I remember how my sister would read blog comments from her phone in the hospital bed. She LOVED hearing from her friends and family... even people she didn't know--OUR friends who still cared about her. She drew so much strength from them, and because of that, so did we! Those who routinely commented were such a blessing!
3) BE SPECIFIC WHEN YOU OFFER SOMETHING
I actually remember this from when my grandfather passed away while I was still in MN. I had a friend who's mother had just passed away a year before who was with me when I got the news. I was a mess. She stood with me and said, "This is how I'm going to help you. I can bring you to your teachers and we can talk to them and get assignments, etc." She was so practical. She learned that from HER experiences... those who said, "If there's any way I can help, let me know," didn't end up being too helpful. Their hearts were ABSOLUTELY in the right place, but when you're experiencing something tragic or traumatic, it's hard to "assign" someone something to do. That's why I try to avoid this statement - because I felt it when we experienced Serry's cancer. I had some friends who were VERY specific in what they could do to support me. My small group, for instance, changed - we became something that was less of a stress on me, and more a group teaching/discussion. They were very practical and such a support. If there's something you can do for someone, do it - or at least offer to. If you can watch the kids, offer to watch the kids. If you want to give some money to the family, give some money. In the case of my friend, if you want to shave your head to show solidarity - shave that head! (Several people, men and women, in our church have done this!)
4) LOVE AND PRAY
Seriously. We know that prayer is a powerful weapon. Why don't we use it? This weekend, we prayed in church. Some of the kids in children's church prayed. We prayed at a party we went to. We've been praying alone and with others. God ALREADY has the title of Healer--it's not like we're asking Him to step out of His identity. He has established Himself as a Healer WAY before you and I got here!
There's more that's rumbling around, but... this is what's on my heart. So, now that you've read this, will you pray for my friend, S, and her husband, A, and their daughter, L? They would really appreciate it. In the meantime, here's my small showing of solidarity for my friend... orange for Leukemia: