By Tim Dyck
This winter marks the two-year anniversary of Brenda’s initial bout with cancer. Throughout 2018, she endured an operation, chemotherapy and radiation on the road to her recovery. Yet recently, we have learned that her cancer has returned, and there is no curative treatment available. She is now at home, in palliative care, and is restricted to her bed because the cancer has already damaged her spine. We (her family) are blessed to have her home from the hospital, but we recognize that her immediate future is one of more sickness, more hardship, separation, and eventually death.
When we started this journey in January 2018, people asked how they could pray for us. Rather than just asking for healing, God showed us that he wanted us and others to pray in the following three ways: (i) that we would always be thankful; (ii) that God would prepare us for whatever lay ahead; and (iii) that our lives would bring glory to God whatever the outcome. These three prayer themes are still relevant, and they still reflect our desires, even though they have become very difficult to live out recently.
Remaining thankful is not a feeling, but a daily choice that we commit to. It’s easy to be thankful when we believe that we have overcome our hardship, illness and suffering; and when the future looks promising. But what can we be thankful for when the future is bleak? In a thankfulness exercise, our family have found the following blessings to give thanks to God for:
- We are thankful for the 40 plus years that Brenda and I (Tim) have spent together. They have been years of building a marriage, a family, and a life together that was full of challenge and excitement. Looking back, we have no regrets on the decisions that we made that took us to new locations and experiences.
- We are especially thankful for the last two years – post cancer treatment. Before the cancer returned, we were able to have several significant celebrations as a family; Brenda’s 60th birthday in October 2019, our 40th wedding anniversary in August 2020, and a wonderful vacation for Brenda and I in Atlantic Canada in the fall of 2019.
- Sometimes loved ones are taken from us very suddenly, and we are thankful that we have been given the blessing of a long goodbye. As a family, we want to make the most of each day as if it were the last together. This has resulted in many precious times of reminiscing and expressing our love to each other.
- We are thankful that I (Tim) have been able to stay at home with Brenda since Christmas, having been granted a leave from EMC and finding support through EI. We are also grateful that our family has rallied to support me in the caregiving role.
- An unexpected reason for thankfulness is the blessing of being able to provide care for Brenda in her time of illness and suffering. We recognize that even though she is bed bound, she has a purpose in living, and we have the privilege of helping her to achieve that purpose.
- We are so very extremely thankful for the love and concern that is expressed by the body of Christ towards us as a family. What a privilege to be part of an extended church family that is praying for us and providing for us in various ways.
- We are thankful that Brenda has maintained a positive attitude and a beautiful testimony in the midst of her trials. Her gift of encouragement has not abated, even though she expresses it entirely from her bed in our living room. She can be an encourager and a prayer warrior using only her phone.
- We had prayed that God would prepare us for whatever outcome we might experience. We are thankful that as a family, we have experienced His presence and His peace throughout this time.
- Most of all, we are thankful that this is not the final goodbye. We have the promise of the resurrection, and a hope for a bright future centred around Christ. What a promise!
Recently, Brenda and I read Philippians 1 together. In a letter of encouragement and compassion, Paul writes to the church leaders in Philippi, and he shares about his own suffering because of his imprisonment. In verse 20, he says “I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Paul was committed to living his life to the full to bring honour to Christ, even while he looked forward to his death, so that he could be freed from present suffering and be united with Christ once for all. He urged his Philippian brothers and sisters to “live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” (v 27).
Certainly, these are difficult days, and the journey ahead will not be easy for our family. Yet we recognize that our citizenship is not on this earth – that we have a great hope for a much brighter future.