It was August 21 of 2010. I was one week out from hearing the words "stage 4 cancer." And I was dropping my only child off at college, facing an empty nest, an empty future, and death.
As the president started to say, "You will all be back in 4 years to see these young people walk across this stage...." it was almost more than I could take. I wanted to stand up and make a scene. I wanted to shout out, "NO, I WILL NOT see my son graduate. My ashes will be long spread over the earth in 4 years. STOP TELLING ME I WILL BE HERE."
Pain, the likes of which I had never endured, was seeping into every pore of my body. If you had asked me at that moment, I would have told you that this was more pain than my heart could bear. It was fathoms deep.
But there were no words to speak the unspeakable that day. They were swallowed in a fake smile and non-threatening conversation. I could not fall apart in front of my child as he is about to begin this exciting new chapter of his life.
The orientation was over, and the three of us walked to the car where we hugged and kissed one last time, the Lord gracious enough to allow only the amount of tears to flow that every other mom and dad were shedding by their respective cars that day.
We turned the car west and started home. The agony inside of me poured forth like flowing lava. I believed I had just left my son at college, never to see the young man he would become as he learned and matured and discovered and mastered and triumphed. I would miss it all. My husband would get to witness it all, and I would not. I would never see the harvest of so many seeds that were to be sown by new friends, new experiences, amazing professors, nurturing and challenging mentors.
That day, that blazing hot, humid August afternoon was a low to which I had never sunk in my life. It was a cross I believed I could never bear.
Torment was my oxygen for the next days as this reality sunk in, as more tests confirmed the unthinkable for my life. My only cogent thought: THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING.
Unknown to all but God, the cross was to be laid down. My death sentence seemed to be pardoned month after month as my "death date" came and went. Weeks became months and months became years. I still had cancer, but I was alive.
My God swathed me in resurrection grace.
I drove to that same campus in May of 2011 to bring my son home. And I took him the next August and got him the next May. And the next August. And this past August. And I hauled plastic bins up 4 flights of stairs on a 105-degree-heat-index day, with a smile on my face.
Because I am alive.
I am still alive. Me. Sinner. The most undeserving of people.
My soul cried out and God took that unbearable cross and laid it on the ground.
And in 23 days, we will drive to that campus and find seats in that same auditorium, and watch this wonderful young man walk across the stage to get his diploma. And I already know that the tears I held in 4 years ago will flow. Because this was the gift I could not imagine ever getting. It was beyond all thought at one time. And it is now a reality. I get to witness this four-year harvest.
Only because I worship and serve and love a great and gracious Savior. Giver of all gifts. Who sometimes makes a bridge for his children over oceans of pain and takes their hand as they step onto land again.
Great glory be to the One who held my pain, and then redeemed it.