“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished (without him). Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.” The Sun, December 1897
Two days before Christmas, and soon the unseen and unseeable present themselves. The waiting is over, the “how much longer” chant to God becomes obsolete. And yet even with this blessing I’m questioning. Beseeching God to prove to me once and for all, what is cancer and how did it catch me and will it catch me again?
I’ve noticed over the past nine months that like Santa, cancer is the great Connector. Neighbors, friends and family increase their generosity and concern. Folks on the wooded trail stop, nod and move to the side so that I can make my way past. Trying not to stare at my hairless body, they speak to their dog, looking down. Sitting in church, I frequently break into sobs, during a familiar hymn. Church members reach across the pew to hug and look deeply into my eyes as they offer peace. My daughter comes over and cooks and watches movies. Friends call, sending cards and food, wishing me well. The world loves to care for those with cancer. Those with cancer need the care.
For even in moments of greatest pain and disappointment, here I am. Front and center facing the challenge. Asking when my feet turn numb can we cancel the last infusion, when my skin peels and burns can we please skip the last two radiation sessions. And the answer that comes every time is “no.” Sometimes wondering if my doctors are trying to save my life or snuff it out. Knowing the answer, fear drives the question all the same.
I petition God to bring down the Holy Spirit to blow on my burning, to sweep out the swelling, to eradicate the cancer cells. “What do you want for Christmas this year, Julia?” I look at them wordless with wonder. How could they ask, as they stare at my 1/4” hair, my flat chest and restricted arm movement. Some days what I want is to be normal again, “I want my old life back,” I sigh as I try to reach for something on the second shelf in the kitchen wincing in pain.
Other days, I am certain that what I want I already have, God’s will in my life. That only, His will be done, not mine. My Advent devotional tells me that suffering is the great Connector with Jesus. That my crucifixion is not unlike his. Nailed to the cross to hang there until joints dislocated and dehydration brought slow death, I’m pretty sure I’d choose 24 weeks of chemo, surgery and 6 weeks radiation. But make no mistake, this has been a crucifixion too. One I’ve endured with minimal complaining and a strong effort toward survival.
I hear Jesus whisper to me and the whisper becomes louder and stronger each day. “It is finished.” And I believe that promise. My crucifixion and resurrection coming just in time to see the Savior. I love that holy baby don’t you?
What do you want for Christmas? I want to believe in the unseen and the unseeable, just like Virginia. I want to believe in miracles, a plump man in a red suit that delivers love to boys and girls . I believe that a scary day in March can end with a cure in December while all the world waits in silence for miracles that are already theirs.
LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS GIFT!!!ORDER ON AMAZON MOMMA, WHO’S BABYGOD? BY JULIA W. BURNS, MD