Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Choice to Relinquish Control and Choose Forgiveness...

On a recent walk I realized I was harboring much anger, must resentment and much blaming.  Through a series of revelations, no doubt Holy Spirit ordained, I made a conscious decision to release this anger and forgive those to whom I was holding it against.   My Daddy’s doctors, who through no fault of their own, had failed to re-diagnose his returned tumor.   Basing their actions on “clear” CT scans, they claimed that there was no “new cancer” to be found.  They promised he was fine and suggested that Christmas would be great since he had elected to stop chemo and would be feeling so much better!  

Nothing could be further than the truth!  There beneath the surface, the tumor was again growing, in the exact location from which it had been removed, and no one found it until it was too late. 
A sudden realization was that I’d been angry for months about their inability to order the correct test, weighing all the “what ifs” possible for treatment had they indeed found the new tumor sooner.  Perhaps they could have done Cyber knife, or a different type of chemo, more surgery, radiation. 

All throughout our journey was a reckless intent to control a circumstance.   I cannot even begin to describe the countless occasions in which my mom, brother and I tried to make some sort of decision for my dad.  It began last summer when we discussed him traveling “back East” to look up old friends and visit his daughter.  We knew at 84, he was in no condition to drive from Kansas to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, nor could he navigate the busy freeways, and we worried about him eating enough and finding a hotel.  Not that he was incapable, but we wanted someone to travel with him.  It was my dream to do a trip like this with my sweet Daddy, and I prayed about a way to go with him, even suggesting it, and even though he desired to go alone, he didn’t seem so opposed to me going.   It was so worrisome to us that he may travel alone, that I began to pray for a way for him to realize he needed to go with someone, a way for the issue to fix itself.  Well, God answered.  With two words I never would have imagined. 
He would be unable to travel on that desired trip, or ever again for that matter. 
And all throughout his treatment there was a common theme.  Our attempt to grasp hold of shifting sand, our attempt to control that which was never meant to be under our control.  We struggled to decide if we should take him to Mayo Clinic or other cities for “better” surgeons.  We agonized many a night, finally realizing Dad wanted to be home, near his support system at church.  God brought us Dr. Osborn, his famous and very capable surgeon, who in fact had done more Whipple surgeries than most doctors at big hospitals and had even been courted by the likes of MD Anderson, Mayo, and Johns Hopkins, yet chose to stay at home in Wichita near family.
Later, it was the decision of whether or not he should stop chemo.  It was wrecking his body, in essence killing him as much as the cancer itself, and yet was our only guard against more cancer spreading.  Despite our agonizing and worry, my dad ultimately made the decision, with his oncologist to stop the chemo.
It was our attempt to control that called the doctor’s nurse multiple times to ask for more scans, to get the results quicker, for more meds, for less meds, FOR SOMEONE TO HELP HIS PAIN!  And although the CTs were clear, we knew deep down that something was most definitely wrong.   Pain is a tremendous blessing, in that it allows the body to signal us to something not working properly and yet, my Daddy’s back and stomach pain was continually ignored.  I prayed it was simply post surgical pain, scar tissue forming, or pain from lying around more than my daddy is used to.  I wrote into boards and asked others who had survived the Whipple surgery if they too had experienced pain.  I called my Daddy’s oncologist office and requested they draw blood work to indicate pancreatitis, requested more CTs, asked for common post surgical digestive enzymes that they had failed to prescribe, and even suggested he visit a chiropractor.   All in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, to prevent the inevitable.  To play God.  All in vain.
And the agony over deciding where he should go at the end.  Was he really ready for Hospice or would a Skilled Nursing facility be better?  We tried to count his days and determine how close he was to the end to determine the course of care.  Ultimately we decided to try the Skilled Nursing unit, which eventually was the poorest choice and where he was most depressed.  The next decision was when and if to remove him from there and we agonized yet again.  The decision was made when he went un-responsive there and then was taken back to the ER.  We easily made the decision to put him into Hospital Hospice.  But how do we decide whether or not to bring him home? Is that even possible with just mom and me trying to lift him to the bathroom?  Well the decision was made by the Hospice team.  Yes, he could go home, and he would get a catheter and wear adult diapers.  DONE.
Do you see a pattern here?  Throughout our agonizing, God made EVERY DECISION.  The more we clung to the pressure of deciding, the less control we actually had.  God answered each and every prayer in a way we never expected, in a way we never could have orchestrated.  And in all of that reality we were assured again, that we have ZERO control.
As I walked down the sidewalk I said out loud “Lord, I forgive the doctors!  And forgive me for MY anger, for MY unforgiveness Lord” I heard God quietly whisper to my heart “Forgive them Kylie, for they know not what they do!”  Jesus uttered those words as he died on the cross and they had never rung more true than in this very moment.   How can I not forgive others when Jesus had forgiven me of EVERY SINGLE THING I’ve ever done wrong?    I immediately felt the biggest load lifted from my shoulders.  A burden I had held for nearly six months was eliminated in an instant.  I realized clearly, that forgiveness doesn’t come naturally or easily.  It is less about freeing someone else from wrongdoing as it is about freeing oneself from personal bondage.  I was free!
And then I had another epiphany.  Those doctors didn’t really need to be forgiven.  They are just human.  They are not miracle workers or saviors. 
They meant well, they did their jobs as well as they could in that situation.  They made mistakes, they missed things, and they didn’t really listen.  Yes, indeed, despite their training, despite their “superhuman” status in our culture today, they were simply human beings playing the guessing game that is Medicine.  Had God wanted to use them to heal my Dad, He would have.  Perhaps their supposed negligence was allowed by God to further His will to take my Daddy at that time.   In fact, there was nothing to forgive.  In all my attempts to control, this was in fact another situation where God’s will prevailed, and although my selfish heart longed to spend one more Christmas with my Daddy in his sweatpants, opening another tool and smiling at the gifts we got, eating a big turkey dinner, and watching “A Christmas Story” for the millionth time, alas, it was not to be.  “Forgive them.  For they know not what they do.”  God got me, it was His will and nothing I or the doctors did or didn’t do would override that will.   And although I will spend the rest of my life wishing it wasn’t so, that God could have given us more time as promised, and I will ache every day until I join him in heaven, there was absolutely
And so I forgave.  I forgave when there was nothing to forgive.  I realized I wasn’t angry at the doctors as much as I was angry at God.  And I told him, and He can take it!  The anger is not gone, nor is the pain, but I can now direct that to God and not to the sinful humans that I somehow expected to fix my Daddy!  And I felt my anger begin to dissipate.
As I near 6 months since I lost my Daddy, much healing has occurred.  I have noticed the acute breathlessness and anxiety I previously felt at the mere thought that he was gone has lessened.  A picture more often brings a smile than a tear.  I picture my Daddy in heaven running free, healthy, eating fresh fish and ice cream, chatting with his brothers and sisters in Christ, and spending eternal hours in praise of  his beloved Jesus.  
The lessons I am learning are immense.  The microscope God has used to dissect my heart has been intensely focused.
I pray daily that my will in this uncertain life would ultimately align with God’s own will.  I have come to understand that this is not always possible.   Never would I have chosen to have my vibrant, serving, loving daddy be crippled by this horrific disease, and die a gruesome death.  That will never change nor will my inept human brain ever be capable of grasping His purposes this side of heaven.   And yet, my lesson learned is that our job here on earth is to relinquish our control to the One who controls all, to submit to His will, and chose to forgive those we perceive as a threat to our selfish plans for our life.  Love and forgiveness are a choice we’ve been allowed to make in our lives to move us forward, to propel us one step further on our path that God ordains.