There is a station on my Pandora account – I named it “My Nest” – which I have thumbed up and thumbed down to perfection. Just about every song is deeply meaningful to me because this station has played through 2 unique pregnancies and their furiously lovely births, a dying dog, 3 moving days, the cancer news from California, all the breath-holding and fervent praying, and now it plays over my mourning.
When my mom had surgery to remove the tumor we still thought could be some sort of sinus infection, the music and lyrics matched every atom of my limbo. Peace and anxiety swirled around and up to a God who was hearing the things my spirit couldn’t even tell me. Song after song ministered like angels with manna, fresh wine and heavy hands on my shoulder.
so I will not worry or fret / my God is the God who will never forget / all of His goodness and all of His promises / He’s holding my world in his hands
Indeed, as I thought of my mother then; the woman who gave me life and taught me how to live it, who has been a rock in shaky times, who has taught me the simple hard of a trust fall into scary love. And I clung to those lyrics and that melody that day.
So when the surgeon’s matter-of-facts were words like “aggressive” and “recurring” and “cancer” those lyrics, that melody anchored me to truths I could never have come up with on my own. …the god who will never forget… he’s holding my world in his hands. Please, God, don’t forget her.
As we unfolded this thing and realized what she was in for, heard the numbers and the expectations, the music matched the waiting and the frustration and the peace. This unforgetting God bore down imprints of a gracious hope – hope that sidestepped any notions of what I’d like to see right now and planted itself right there in Eternity. So somehow as I prayed and agreed that seeing her at my daughter’s wedding is good, is right, is worth wanting, I also let it go. This God holding my world held my grief and brought me to the darkest places where he showed me Light.
Hope for no more cancer. No more death. I was gently led down a path of acceptance for the “come what may” and believed wholly in the goodness of it. That whatever happened wouldn’t change how I saw God, but would change how I saw everything else.
And then the white places on her scans were fading. All the treatment and the prayers delivering her body from evil, chasing out temptation. We still didn’t know what would happen, but what could have happened hadn’t yet. What could have been goodbye days were days full of planning again – thinking of the future and resuming all the precious mundane of breathing in and breathing out.
It took a bit for me to shift from the hope on the one hand of everything being okay when the worst came to everything being okay when it didn’t. I had to gather my bearings after seeing the report I had become settled with never seeing: that she was getting better, that this might be something we talked about in 20 years together. But once that acceptance hit, it hit hard and all those songs sounded like nods and affirmations. Like good friends cheering on good news.
Scan after scan showed improvement. The cancer was no match for a God like ours. So for a while I danced while I sang those melodies. I laughed and I enjoyed them deeper because I knew what it was to offer them in uncertainty.
the sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning / it’s time to sing your song again / whatever may pass and whatever lies before me / let me be singing when the evening comes
For a while we rested. In the back of my mind I knew it could change, but I started to really believe in this miracle. Christmas felt more relaxed than the year before, less urgent, more celebratory. Despite continued pain and fatigue she seemed better.
Then in January – when winter was settled in all quiet – we saw another kind of scan. The music stopped and I felt dizzy from dancing. I tried to hope still, but I could no longer find into the peace and okay-ness I’d felt before. I’d been conned. I’d been lulled into tapping my feet and twirling around on an unsteady floor and then it fell from under me.
Now those songs sound mostly mocking. I listen to them because sometimes they stitch me upright just a little, prop up a faith I think I still want to keep, but I am thumbing down more of them. I am angry at the confidence and the trust in a God I’m not sure is listening. Her death is unreal. I thought I had made peace with it when she first got sick, but now I see that as impossible. I couldn’t have known what it would actually be like to lose her, how could I even know what I was accepting? I give it back. I don’t accept this.
I know she wouldn’t like that much, but she was stronger than me in many ways. If this is to make any tiny amount of sense, she’s listening when I pray and she will be the one to help me find out how to live without her. And maybe she’ll even teach me how to dance again.
I need a reason to sing/ I need to know that you’re still holding / the whole world in your hands / and I need a reason to sing
Holding My World by Kristian Stanfill
10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman
Reason to Sing by All Sons & Daughters