It was 5 years ago today. November 25, 2014. The day the battle began.
It started with surgery, a surgery that would leave me marked in a way I didn’t yet comprehend. All I knew is that I didn’t have any other options. All my other options had been exhausted in the years before, and none worked. My best chance at life was six-month dance with death.
Of course, I had no way of understanding the long-term cost.
In some cases, ignorance really is bliss.
For the last twenty-four hours I’ve been remembering that day five years ago. I remembered the early morning drive to the hospital, and the fallen face of my husband before they wheeled me back to surgery. I remembered the operating room filled with a dozen surgeons and nurses and techs and the long, slow struggle to wake myself up in the ICU.
Also, I remembered the two weeks without water and many more weeks without food, and the sudden awareness of the impossibility of going back in time, hitting me like a wave of cement. And I remembered the difficulty learning to function those weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when so much of the world was celebrating and I was mourning.
After about an hour of that kind of remembering, I realized I was no longer honoring what had happened. I was reliving it. And it was sucking the life right out of me.
And so I decided to do something different.
Quietly, I pulled out the large yellow bag I had hidden in the laundry room behind the door. Five years ago, at the same time I started a battle, I also started a collection. A collection of cards, letters, emails. A collection of notes that came with bouquets of flowers and delivered meals, and hand-written index cards with favorite verses.
I dumped them all on the family room floor. And, over the course of several hours, I read each one again.
As I read the names of hundreds of friends and neighbors and strangers who entered into my story with me, helping our family carry an impossible grief, I remembered something else:
I wasn’t alone. God had been with me all along. In the car and the operating room, in the ICU and in my family room. And He had shown himself to me, in large part, through the presence of His people.
Men and women and children who set aside a few minutes or hours to let me know they were praying for our family, that I wasn’t alone, and that the God we both loved would find a way to carry us through.
My friends, this Thanksgiving you and I can choose to focus on all we’ve lost, all that has gone wrong. We would be within our rights to do so. Some of you have weathered circumstances I can not fathom. And there is certainly worth in honoring the battles we’ve endured.
But it’s also worthy to remember the unexpected gifts that helped us get through. The sight of a sunrise, the words of a stranger, the comfort of warm fire. And the many friends—seen and unseen—who fought in battle right alongside us.
And it’s worthy to remember the God who never left us, the One who took on pain, so we’d never be alone in our own.
This is a life-giving kind of remembering. And although I’m certain to have more days of mourning, today I’m celebrating.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Thank you for the many ways you have carried me over the last five years. You have held me up when I could not stand, prayed for me when I could not pray. I have no words for the gratitude I feel when I remember the way God’s presence has shone through you. I will never forget. And I will always be thankful.
And whether you spend the days of this week mourning or celebrating or doing a little bit of both, may you, too, see glimmers of the face of the God who loves you more than you know.
He is with us.