Julie and I grew up singing hymns. We go to a church that has a contemporary worship service now so hymns are few and far between. But we love it when somebody takes a hymn and turns it into something contemporary. On Sunday our church sang a contemporary version of “It Is Well with My Soul“. We cried. We listened to it again Sunday night. We cried. I listened to it again in my car over lunch on Monday. I cried again. Here it is so you can cry too.
I want to take a moment to express gratitude to the many, many people who are reaching out to us right now. Complete strangers are sharing stories of their journeys through cancer and encouraging us. And in some ways, we are gaining perspective on our daughter and her illness. Last night she wanted to argue about taking her anti-nausea medicine. She staged a fit, cried, yelled, argued and frustrated her mommy. So I stepped in and said something shocking to get her attention and she instantly changed from fake tears to real dirty looks. It worked. I got through. She asked why she has to keep taking medicine.
“Because you have cancer, honey.”
She took her medicine.
I never imagined having that conversation with my daughter but we are grateful she is old enough that we can discuss this with her. Another nearby couple is also in the same hospital with their two-year-old daughter. How do they reason with her? How do they explain the tubes, shots, wires or the bump under the skin on her chest? The endless medicines? Why are they stuck in that same room for days on end? Why can’t they just go home and play with their toys?
And it’s not just them. The hospital is full of sick kids and desperate parents. The most terrifying words in the world for me are “pediatric oncology”. The bravest people in the world are on that floor.
Our little girl has a tumor on a bone in her leg. It has not spread. Her prognosis is good but we have MONTHS of chemo between now and the finish line and the shadow of some pretty terrible side effects to watch out for. But the tumor is on her leg and we caught it early. And we are within an hour of one of the best hospitals in the whole world. And it is in our insurance network. And my employer could not be more supportive. And our whole community has rallied around us.
So what do I have to complain about? It is well.
Even though there is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing you can directly do either. Julie’s brother shared that he felt helpless living in another country and unable to be here. But he is not helpless. We can’t massage the tumor out. We are relying on the doctors to help us with the mundane. Mundane work is part of any miracle. Moses had to hold up his arms. The widow had to gather jars. Wendy has to have chemo. The miracle comes from the Lord but there is always something we have to do.
So I replied to Julie’s brother that he could do as much there as he can here. He can pray.
We walk around that hospital seeing scared and tired parents who just want their baby to get better so they can go home. It is really troubling. We see these parents and work, in our own way, to embrace the opportunity. It seems like I’m on the elevator 20 times every day. As a consequence I run into people repeatedly. One young man was named Adam. I didn’t know why Adam was visiting the hospital. I knew he was there with his wife(?) walking to and from the parking garage to smoke but I never wanted to ask why they were there. I guess I was afraid. The answers are too painful. Julie asked. Adam was there hoping his 15-day-old son would soon begin to breathe on his own.
It breaks your heart.
Julie and I decided some years ago to never say, “I’ll be praying for you!” when speaking in person. Heck with that. We just ask to pray on the spot. Adam said that was cool and Julie led the way.
Though I rode the elevator frequently, I didn’t see Adam on my next stay four days later. I don’t know what that means. I may never know what that means.
But I do know this: It is well.
Either “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” or it’s all our imagination and our weakness. The trouble with that later option is this: I have had multiple encounters with God. Encounters that I didn’t imagine. Encounters that are not coincidence. There is a reason my daughter is ill. But you know what? Even if the worst happens it is well. I, myself, baptized my daughter. It is well. I know it is well. I just don’t always feel it.
This is Julie: I want to share some of my thoughts on those words, “It is well.” It is amazing how so many different thoughts and feelings can flood your mind in the course of one song.
“Far be it from me to not believe, Even when my eyes can’t see. And this mountain that’s in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea.”
I didn’t seek out this mountain. Mountains can be seen from a distance. Mountains don’t usually fall without warning out of no where and land right on top of you. I didn’t seek this route, I don’t want it. But I know He is with me. Even in the pediatricians office when the doctor spoke those first words of, “It is important that we stay in control of our emotions.” I never felt alone. This mountain has fallen, but I am not holding it up. He is. “It is well”
“Through it all, through it all. My eyes are on you. It is well with me.”
I sang those words on Sunday, out of faith because I may not be feeling that right now. My daughter has cancer. That is NOT well with me. I sang those words to proclaim it to myself. Even though I may not be feeling it, the words are true. I also sang those words to praise my Heavenly Father, because I can trust in Him.
It is well. Even if I am crying. It is well. And through it all my eyes are on You. So let it go my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.
It is well with me.