By Dave Eley
On December 22, 2022, the day before the Great Buffalo Blizzard, we agreed with the oncologist to stop Dona’s cancer treatment and enroll her with Hospice. Focus will be on comfort at home. We feel okay about it. She will likely live longer on Hospice than on aggressive treatment.
I’ll provide updates through https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/donaeley
Dona sleeps most of the day but is in no pain. Praise God. Although a bit confused at times and very weak, there is a calm and focus that must only come from the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding….guarding her heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”
Medical science and technology have given us 8 great years and, according to Dona, some of her best years. (Seriously, see ‘I Like the New Metastatic Me. ) We are grateful to have been the recipient of a dozen or more cutting edge or proven treatments, (which worked well until wily cancer cells morphed and found a workaround) developed by the best researchers and engineers the world has to offer, and delivered by compassionate surgeons, doctors, technicians, and nurses. But over time treatment has taken a toll. Modern medicine has its limits.
When the best efforts of our medical clinicians are overwhelmed and consumed by disease what is left? For the Christian, it is the hope of the resurrection. What does that look like? Perhaps it is like the discovery of a masterpiece that was hidden when painted over with an inferior work of art. As the later work flakes away due to time and the elements the earlier original is revealed, something beautiful and totally different. Or, perhaps it is as simple as Jesus’ parable of the house built on a rock that leaves the home intact when the winds and rains come. (Matthew 7)
It is that underlying beauty, strength, and solid foundation that is now so evident in my wife. Yesterday, I told Dona, “When my time comes, I hope I can also face my mortality directly, look it square in the face without flinching. But I think I will be frightened.”
She gazed at me for a minute, I was beginning to think she had drifted off, and then she said, “When your time comes God will give you grace and strength. But for now, you need to quit with the chipmunk cheeks.”
She was alluding to two posts she wrote early in her cancer journey. The chipmunk cheek image is from John Piper, who writes:
Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day (Exodus 16:4).
God’s grace is like manna. God gives us “a day’s portion every day.” This is why Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily” bread, not “next week’s” bread.
We need to quit being chipmunks. We don’t need to try and stuff our cheeks with today’s manna, anxiously storing up fuel for the nasty winter we imagine around the corner. God doesn’t give us grace for our imaginations, he doesn’t give us grace for our chipmunk approach to life. (Emphasis mine.)
The hardcore truth is that this habitual way of viewing the big scary world can quickly become faith-numbing insanity. “Dona,” I say to myself, “where is God in all this worry about the future? What are you fretting about? Who do you believe is really in charge?”
Me, apparently…….God waits for us to wave our white flags and allow his grace to attend to our present needs and not for those imagined future troubles. And that grace is sufficient to carry us through the day.”
So, as Dona says, I’m going to quit (try to quit) being a chipmunk and train myself through repetition, reminding myself of eternal truths, look for joy each day, and trust tomorrow, both for my life and especially for by wife’s, to the hand of God, who transcends our mortal limitations.
This is mortality, this is eternity.