My dad is dying. Technically, he always has been. We all are. But a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer earlier this year has brought his mortality into focus, rather than the abstract blurred background of life.
He went to the doctor a few months ago with side pain and jaundice. My dad going to the doctor is itself a cause for concern, he rarely visits medical professionals. My mom called to tell me they’d gone in and we joked, “better start calling family, dad went to the doctor.”
It turns out it was very good he went in. What was initially believed to be gallstones turned out to be an early indication of the cancer. Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive, and often hard to detect. The tumor was blocking a bile duct, which gives the same symptoms as gallstones. We got lucky that it was caught before it spread. Even with an early diagnosis there isn’t a lot to be done. There is no cure, only delay.
When I speak with my father, especially on days where he’s had chemo, I can tell even over the phone how ravaged his body has been. Even conversation about simple things carry undertones of his life or death fight. Cancer sucks, and it consumes a person’s life as it tries to consume their body.
His humor is still intact. He’s been losing weight faster than he should as solid foods are hard to keep down and the body works in overdrive to fight the disease. “Fortunately, I’ve been training for this my whole life and have the pounds to spare.” he said recently.
His faith is intact as well. Shortly after the diagnosis he commented on how it turns out he really believes in heaven. Of course he was always pretty sure, as sure as you can be I guess. But being forced to consider the reality of death either confirms your convictions or exposes the cracks. The peace he feels confirms the beliefs he’s held. It is comforting to know that our faith in God is not determined by getting what we want. We believe God is good in both life and death, it’s the deep peace of following him.It is comforting to know that our faith in God is not determined by getting what we want. Click To Tweet
My dad is dying. Technically, he always has been. We all are. It’s just he’s more aware of it than most of us.
I think it is foolish to “live every day as if it were your last.” If we really did, no one would ever go to work, or pay bills, or take out the garbage. But it is wise to live every day with awareness that there will be a last day. We don’t know when that will be for my dad any more than we do for ourselves, really, but his battle with cancer is reminding me that I often don’t bring my mortality into focus.
Cancer sucks. That is absolutely true. It is a reminder that death is a penalty, a consequence of our distance from God. The harshness of death makes the seriousness of sin more tangible. But even in facing his death, my dad is being used to teach others about life. And that is a beautiful reminder that God takes all things, even ugly, awful, painful, horrible things, and works to bring good out of them.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.