Chapter 27: The war on cancer, a reunion, and gratitude

Don has been back to work for two weeks now and continues to feel good. Hooray! I am amazed at how quickly we have fallen back into the old routines of working (sometimes late) and juggling family tasks (taking this kid there, that kid over there, did you pick up some bread? Etc.). It’s almost as if it’s been a “normal” summer.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer, but did manage to fly to DC this week for a few important votes. With all of this came more talk of the war on cancer and all of those battle-like terms. Fighter. Win the war. Victory. Defeat. These are fine – most of us respond well to the urge to fight this diagnosis – but what if there is no clear victory or no clear defeat? What if someone must deal with this for years? Are they defeated? Are they fighting the entire time? That sounds exhausting to me. What if someone fights this battle for a decade or more, but then dies, are they a loser/failure? In my view, they are still victorious — a survivor — if they continued to live a meaningful life, even with a cancer diagnosis.

Which brings me to state of mind. For us, seizing the positive is the obvious thing to do. As I’ve told many when discussing Don’s situation, “yes, it’s a bummer, but it could be a thousand times worse.” If this is something Don (and our family) will have to manage and deal with for years (might be easy, might be hard, who knows exactly? We’ll see.) we don’t see how being constantly down and out about it does us any good. So it’s there. We are handling it in a proactive manner. We are doing everything we can. Don is feeling good. What else is there? We can live in fear of the What Ifs. Or we can live in awareness of the What We Have Today (feeling good; healthy family; food, clothes and roof over our heads; meaningful work).

A notable moment this week was my 30th high school reunion. Wow, what a time? I’m so glad I went and was able to connect with some really great people. One of my classmates is an oncologist and as I chatted briefly with him about our spring (because how many people really understand what he does every day?) he asked the right questions and then went on to describe the anxiety and stress of living from scan to scan. While I’m sure there is an element of truth to this, this is not really what I wanted to hear. We have committed to seizing the positive and plan to make the most out of every day, month, year we have on this journey. I suspect this was his way of expressing sympathy, but the delivery was poor. I scooted on to the next classmate quickly!

And finally, a few nights ago was the Gratitude Candle moment. I joined my work colleagues and friends for a gathering to say goodbye to a few who are moving on, and to welcome a few new colleagues. After enjoying a casual dinner we gathered to pass around the gratitude candle. As the candle comes to you, you share something you are grateful for. Anne started with the candle – she is one of our core members – adult resident with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She shared she was grateful for her time with our friends who are leaving and was so proud of them. And then the tears started flowing, but she said they were happy tears! Next was Jeff, another core member, and he commented on how grateful he is for the friendships he has at the farm. Core Members Jake and Molly also shared similar thoughts on their friendships and how they will miss their friends. At this point there were lots of tears from the core members and all of us. A few of the sentiments shared included gratitude for: new opportunities, old and new friends, a place where one can stretch and grow, the gift of memories, and the people in this room. Like any organization, we have our challenging moments. But the feeling of love and respect from each person that night is something I won’t forget for a long while.

I hope you will soon find a moment with your gratitude candle.

Click here to learn more about my work at Peacehaven Community Farm.


Chapter 26: Back to Work

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The roller coaster ride isn’t over, but hopefully the things-are-moving-so-fast-I’m-not-sure-which-end-is-up part has subsided for a while. I wanted to share Don’s recent facebook post with you, so you could hear from him personally in case you didn’t see it. We both feel a great sense of relief knowing that this tough chapter is behind us. There might be a few more hard chapters ahead, but for now, we are learning to relish each day. And really, what else do any of us have but today?


Chapter 25: A Playlist

Today we celebrated the life of my friend’s son who left us far too soon. The sanctuary was packed, the overflow was packed and I don’t think there was any standing room left. Hundreds of people, young and old, who’s lives have been touched by this young man, or by his family. I met him once but really only know his parents. They are a generous, loving, beautiful family and this is not what they ever imagined. But who imagines things like this? Sometimes being human is not fair. The scriptures shared were exactly what we needed to hear. The words given by his sister were funny and touching. The message spoke of his zest for life, his generosity of spirit, joy and love. And we were challenged to share our gifts – our light – with the world in his memory. 

But more than all of that beauty was the music. I had to come home and document the playlist so I can listen again and again. I hope you’ll feel the same. (For you golden oldies – click the song titles to listen.) 

The music was led by local musician Laurelyn Dossett. You can check her out here (in the jeans) – Leaving Eden  and The River’s Lament 

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
… Colossians 3:12-14, The Message

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
… Romans 8:35-39, The Message



View from atop Mt. Mitchell, NC