Last night JJ returned home from work in a very happy mood. “I love living up here. I really like my job!” he exclaimed. He says his co-workers are all extremely nice and friendly and helpful. Also, at a meeting that day he had been praised because a customer had given him a “10”–the highest score possible–on a review card customers can fill out rating the quality of service they received from employees. This is not the first “perfect” JJ has received from customers. I love seeing JJ so happy and doing so well.
This morning as soon as I woke up, I got dressed, I made coffee, I fed the pets, and I sat down at my laptop and logged-on to Google+ to study Hebrew with my friend. She lives in another state, but we study Hebrew together via videochat. We love studying Hebrew together. Hebrew is unlike any other language. It is more than simply learning vocabulary words and grammar. The letters and words have deep meaning and teach about God and faith and life. Studying always leads us into deep discussions and we have the greatest time. We had to stop studying together when JJ was diagnosed with cancer and today was our first day back. It felt good.
My friend co-administers a Hebraic website (His-Israel) with an awesome Israeli Hebrew/Bible scholar. I have become friends with this woman as well, and have even had the wonderful opportunity to study with her. I have learned so much from her! She is very gracious and EJ thinks her voice sounds as soft and gentle as a cooing dove. My friend told me today that when she mentioned to our Israeli friend that we were going to study Hebrew again, our Israeli friend reminded her that when Jewish people make aliyah, which means they immigrate to Israel, it is traditional for them to change their names–especially if they have nonHebrew names–to reflect their new ties with the land and people of Israel. She said, “You and TJ have such a love for the people of Israel that I think you should adopt Hebrew names to use whenever you study Hebrew together.” My friend asked her what names she would suggest and our Israeli friend chose Hebrew names for us that she felt described our characters. The name she gave me is Tali, which means the gentle rain that falls from Heaven, or dew from Heaven. Being given a beautiful Hebrew name chosen just for me feels like receiving a formal blessing.
I felt deep, deep joy and contentment today.
And then our realtor called EJ and told him that it is good that he removed more possessions from our old house and that we need to keep going down there to remove more so that the house shows better.
Then I had an anxiety attack that was so severe that I felt as if I couldn’t breath and I felt sick to my stomach. I told EJ that I don’t want him to drive down to the old house and try to load heavy things by himself, but I’m not sure how many more times I can endure going down there.
There are some very good people downstate and there are people who love that area, but for us it has become a place of struggle, abuse (my family of origin), sickness, pain, loss, and heartache. Sometimes I try to describe our experiences–and I have just now spent a long time trying again to describe them, but I erased it all–because it’s impossible to put it into believable words. We have always been thankful, counted our blessings, and tried to bloom where we were planted, and we have always prayed that God would give us strength to get through trials and to teach us through them. However, early last year we finally reached the point at which I begged God to get us out of there and into a better place. And He did.
When I was a child, my siblings would sometimes watch those old classic horror movies about mummies or vampires. Those movies terrified me because no matter how hard they tried, the people could never escape from the terrible monsters that threatened them. The woman would stumble or the car wouldn’t start or rain would wash out the road. Sometimes our old house feels like being caught in an old horror movie. At his old job EJ often had to work long hours, at a difficult company, for many weeks without a day off. When he finally did get a rare day off, he was exhausted, sick, and in pain, but he’d have to choose between working on the house or resting and not getting urgent projects done. We rarely were able to just have fun. We poured a lot of time, effort, and money into that house. We want to close that chapter of our lives, but we are still being pulled back: We still have to pour limited physical, emotional, and financial resources into that house. It’s disheartening because with the bad housing market, our house is listed at far below what we paid for it years ago. And just when we start to think we can have a moment of enjoyment up here, the realtor calls to yank us back down there.
It’s not as if the realtor and we don’t know that we are doing the best we can to get down there. We really don’t need the reminders. And it’s not as if our house is filled with junk. It’s not. Mostly we just have stuff from the basement to move. It’s going slow because we don’t have many people to help us, and even when a person volunteers, we don’t have a truck or trailer to haul the stuff and we can’t afford to rent another Uhaul.
I just want God to please, pretty please, get us the help we need and sell the house so the tortuous burden can be lifted from us. We were strong for a really long time, but JJ’s cancer–on top of everything else–broke our stamina and strength.
Cancer and its recovery reminds me of The Beecher Tornado and it’s aftermath.
The Beecher Tornado touched down just north of Flint, Michigan, at about 8:30 pm, on Monday evening, June 8, 1953. Most people living in the area were at home with the children in bed. By the time people heard the storm’s roar their houses were being torn apart. Most of the casualties and damage occurred in the unincorporated community of Beecher, a suburb on the northern edge of the city of Flint. Large sections of neighborhoods were completely blown away, with only building foundations left. The slow-moving tornado wrecked 340 houses, severely damaged many others and injured 844 persons. The Beecher tornado was the last single tornado to cause over 100 deaths in the United States. It is ranked the 9th deadliest tornado in U. S. history.
Most people have probably never heard of this tornado but it has great significance for EJ’s family. His paternal grandmother was injured in the tornado and spent about six months in the hospital. His father was coming home from his job at an automotive factory and noticed a flock of birds flying strangely in the sky. Then he realized that they weren’t birds, they were the roofs of houses being destroyed by the tornado. EJ’s mother was babysitting some kids at their house when the tornado struck. They made it through safely, but the house next door was totally destroyed and the family killed.
The Beecher Tornado struck years before EJ was born (and, I think, before his parents even knew each other). However, the tornado has affected EJ’s grandmother, his parents, and him. I had never even heard of it before I married EJ but he has told me the story many times because it’s in his family’s history and psyche and so it has become part of my life as well. Because of the Beecher Tornado, we stay very alert to weather conditions. We all love storms, but we also respect their power and danger.
When a trauma like a tornado or cancer occurs, people gather around to give aide and support. However, long after supporters have moved on, the victims must continue to deal with the destruction and work to rebuild their lives, which can take weeks or months or years. The effect of the trauma can be life-long and affect generations.
So even though it’s been more than a year since JJ’s cancer treatment ended, we are still in recovery. Life is not yet “back to normal” for us. Sometimes I wonder if it takes everyone this long to recover or only us? But then I get hints that recovery is difficult for most everyone. For example, a young guy that EJ used to work at his old company had the same type of cancer as JJ. EJ asked him how he recovered from cancer after his treatment. The guy said, “I drink and do drugs.” Uhm. Not an option for us. The young guy’s cancer returned and recently took his life. Scary.
We still feel apprehensive when JJ has a blood draw or CT scan, we still feel fear when he has strange pains, and it’s totally scary to read that people who have suffered cancer as teens or young adults tend to struggle in life and to have a high risk of getting cancer again. We also are still very tired, stressed, and easily overwhelmed. What seems like a small expectation, request, or event to others can feel overwhelming to us, even if it’s “good.” I haven’t yet figured out how to tell people that we appreciate it…or we’d like to help…or we’d normally love it…but it’s just too much right now. Mostly we’re just trying to deal with the anxiety and to rest. I’d like to say, “Keep it small, keep it short, or ask someone else.”