The last year and a half has been a difficult time. Our family walked through the end stages of Parkinson’s Disease and cancer and experienced great loss. So, when I thought about writing about the things I am thankful for, my initial reaction was not a good one. “There wasn’t much good happening in the last year.” Besides the loss of my in-laws, I went through the worst physical pain of my life, and I am no stranger to pain. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there didn’t have to be good things happening to be thankful.
I remembered four generations of our family gathered around my mother-in-law, singing hymns as she was ushered into glory. My son led us in prayer as we thanked God for the life we shared with this precious woman. Over the next few days, we shared stories, laughter, and memories as we planned her funeral. Though a sad time, it was a blessed time. I was thankful for all that we shared together.
Although we all suspected my father-in-law’s rapid weight loss was an indicator of a serious health issue, we set our suspicions aside during mom’s decline. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the phone call from his doctor just three months later. “The tests confirm your father has lung cancer.” A few more tests, and the news only got worse. “The cancer has metastasized to his liver and is in his bones.”
“All of them. With chemo, he may live up to a year, but the chemo will be difficult and will make him very sick. You need to consider his quality of life.”
“And without chemo?”
“Maybe six months. But right now he’s not feeling sick and has no pain. Consider his quality of life.”
I was not becoming a fan of the term “quality of life.” I didn’t like choosing between quality and quantity. It changed my life. I left my job, a career I loved. We moved to a new home that could accommodate a first-floor bedroom and living space for Dad.
As I reflected on that time, I remembered how having Dad living with us changed our lives for the better. Our lives slowed down, which was a welcome change. We didn’t have plans every night. We stayed at home together, watching the Cubs get into the World Series, listening to stories of his youth, seeing him light up when our granddaughter visited, and even talking about what heaven will be like. Each day was a gift for which I am very thankful.
Even the pain I have endured has its up side. Last Thanksgiving, I asked Doug, “Can pain kill you?” I was sure that was the direction we were heading. I didn’t see how my body could possibly survive any more pain. But just as I hit my lowest point, I crossed paths with someone who offered suggestions that proved to help. I am so thankful that God put that person in the right place at the right time.
While my condition is considered extremely rare (fluoroquinolone toxicity), I have discovered it is actually pretty common. But it is ignored or misdiagnosed by doctors. I have been able to help several people just in my circle of friends with the advice I received. For that, I am thankful. Without having gone through it, I never would have known how to help others.
Finally, all the time spent recovering, not working, and not caretaking, as been spent writing. My book is currently with an editor, and I look forward to having it published in the new year. I am praying that others will be helped and blessed by my story. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4)
So, yeah, the past year (maybe two) haven’t been the best circumstances, but God has been faithful and gracious to me. Because of the love and grace he has lavished on me, I can approach Thanksgiving week with a truly thankful heart.