Just after the appointment, our family went to lunch to debrief and “rehash” as Dad says we girls like to do. I felt like I had “caught” the confidence that Dr. Murphy exudes. Though I am the least “half-full” member of our family, I listened as the doctor encouraged us to view the glass as he does, “all the way full.” Now I don’t know that I’ll ever get there, but I was at a solid three-quarters full after the appointment. At lunch I noticed that my normally “half-full” father looked like someone had drained his cup.
Now, I pride myself on always being the first one to find something to worry about, so I couldn’t figure out why Dad didn’t seem as positive as I was. So, I quickly, and not-so-subtly began investigating why. “OK, did I miss something, and this appointment actually went worse than I thought?” How could I, the ultimate worrier, have missed it?
Dad assured me that his outlook overall remained positive, but that the practical reality of the situation was also setting in. He used an analogy I understand all too well. He said, “it’s like when I’ve had to go on a trip I really didn’t want to go on. I don’t want to pack for the trip, I don’t want to get ready, and though I know it won’t be that bad once I get there, I just dread getting on the plane.”
Boy, did that speak to me. In fact, I was already mentally preparing for (and dreading) having to leave my family in just a few hours to return to Atlanta. I just didn’t want to get in that SUV.
Setting off on journeys has always been a challenge for me, particularly if I have to take the journey alone. I think one of the downsides to having an amazing family is that it can be very difficult to leave them. I don’t know how many times I’ve cried driving off, even when I was going places I wanted to go. I’ve always loved learning, but I’ve cried my eyes out heading to Girls State, Presidential Classroom, and (more times than I can count) to the University of Alabama. I adore travel and the way it changes your view of yourself and the world, but I’ve tearfully departed for Ukraine, China, Thailand, and many cities in the U.S. I love journeys, but I hate to leave the people I love. I really don’t want to go it alone. In fact, I’ve been known to start an argument with someone in the family in order to get mad enough to have the strength to leave! (That never really works, though I’ve tried many times!) And as much as I love to travel and as much as I value opportunities to learn and grow, there is nothing like returning home.
I feel like my dad is about to leave for college. I know he is going to learn amazing things on this journey. I feel like he is about to travel oversees. I know his perspective on life will be changed for the better. But I know that like leaving for college or an oversees trip, he is about to encounter brand new difficulties, and though we talk about the “family” going on the journey together, the “family” isn’t getting a port inserted in our chests on Thursday. It is sort of like the royal “we.” We used to kid Dad about saying, “We need to clean this kitchen for mom,” when what he meant was “you girls need to clean this kitchen for mom!” Well, now it isn’t really “us” that will begin chemotherapy Monday morning. It isn’t “our” hair that will begin falling out. And it isn’t “our” bodies that have to fight this terrible disease. Though we are as united as we can be as a family, (and I would hate to see us if we got any closer), in many ways Dad is having to go it alone, and I can’t do one thing about it.
So tonight as I am getting back from a three week journey, I am praying for my dad as he embarks on an 18-week journey. I am praying Deuteronomy 31:6 for Dad, that he will be strong and courageous, neither afraid nor terrified for the Lord his God goes with him (even into the chemotherapy treatment room); and He will never leave nor forsake Dad. I can’t wait to see and hear what Dad learns on this journey; I know, to a great extent, we will learn along with him. I can’t wait to see how his perspective on life changes, and how that changes ours. But most of all, tonight as he prepares to leave for his journey, I am praying that God brings him safely through this adventure, and I am already looking forward to his healthy return home from this journey.