Have you heard the story about the guy who was diagnosed with terminal cancer? His doctor sat him down, looking very somber, and said, “I’m afraid I have some very bad news for you. I’m not one to beat around the bush so I’m just going to come out and say it. You’re a goner. You have cancer that is very aggressive. It can’t be stopped. Get your affairs in order. You only have a few months left to live.” Devastated, the man went home to tell his wife the bad news.
A couple of years later, the man’s wife bumped into the doctor on the street. After introducing herself, she said, “Do you remember when you told my husband that he was a goner?” “Yes, and you have my deepest sympathies,” the physician replied solemnly.
“Well, you can keep your sympathies,” the woman smiled. “But you were, in fact, correct in your diagnosis. My husband is a goner. Since you diagnosed him, he’s gone to Europe, he’s gone to the Caribbean, and he’s gone to Hawaii. This summer we will be gone taking an Alaskan cruise. So you were right all along. He is indeed a goner!”
How wonderful for me to tell you that I’m also a “goner.” It’s summer and time to hit the road with the traveling, “We do not lose heart,” show. Cancer? Who said anything about cancer? This is the summer to pull out all the stops and put some miles under my belt. Betsy and I have people to love and amazing places to go. My new motto: get cancer and see the world!
- May – New Orleans – for “medical treatment” at some amazing restaurants. You can see this steamboat from our hotel window. I wished it went to Tallahassee!
- June – Indianapolis – for a family wedding and to hang out with these dear women.
- July – Bar Harbor, Maine – sadly, below is the only place we could find to stay.
- August – Lake Burton, Georgia – just the sound of these words soothes my soul.
“Ed, I’m jealous. How can you afford to go to all these places?” you might be wondering. The short answer? Generous, gracious and loving people who wish to remain anonymous. I will tell you one story, though.
I have a dear friend whose wife died of cancer recently. It was my honor to conduct her funeral. Before she died, though, a number of their friends went together and gave them a gift. Travel money was placed in their hands and they were told to hit the road – to go wherever they wanted to go. They had a blast.
When my buddy heard about my diagnosis, you know what he did? You see it coming, don’t you? He did the same thing for Betsy and I. He raised money so we could travel. When he sent it to me over a year ago, it may surprise you to hear, but I was devastated. Based upon how I was feeling then, I knew we would never to be able to travel again. For the sake of integrity, I thought he should return the money to those who had given it. It seemed wrong to take it.
He declined to do so, with a kind smile and twinkle in his eye. I’ll never forget what he then said to me in my despair. “Ed, God specializes in resurrections. Who can say what He might do for you.” At the time, I was so angry at my situation that his words stung. I couldn’t accept them and thought them foolish in light of him losing his own wife recently.
And then it happened. A resurrection. A miracle. An all but dead man, alive again. Restored. And it has continued. Oh, I still ache, get very tired, and have some pretty bad days. But for over a year now, I have been given restorative grace. So many miracles, both body and soul, that I’m starting to lose track.
If you were me, you would be experiencing a blur of amazing grace and mercy in the midst of continued great need. It makes me wonder if this is, in fact, a picture of life for us: circumstances that often overwhelm us, but in the middle of them, provision and resulting hope. The provision is different for everyone, but available for all.
I was at an office the other day to repair a computer. When I announced myself to the receptionist, she looked up and exclaimed, “You’re the guy who writes that blog!” After a pause, she then blurted out, “But you don’t look sick at all!” I get that a lot. No respect.
Last Friday I spent the afternoon having cancer-fighting drugs pumped into a port in my chest. That evening, Betsy and I took our two granddaughters (and Adler, our dog) dancing. I am very confused by this bizarre dichotomy in which I now live. Happy, but confused.
Joy and sadness. Beginnings and endings. Dancing and mourning. Miracles and mysteries. Embracing all these things makes us true participants in life. And when despair is all we can feel, remember the words of my friend: “Who can say what God might do for you?”
Sometimes when we think God has written the end of our stories,
what He is really doing is writing a new beginning.
So much generosity. So much love. So many stunning miracles. And now – after I thought my life was over – plane tickets.
P.S. I hope each of you are also “goners” this summer and that you have the time of your lives!