When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, we began to reckon time differently. Under more normal circumstances, we might refer to “the year Daniel was born.” Or “ the year the girls graduated high school.” Four years ago, we began to mark time by my husband’s diagnosis and treatment.
One year was called “the year Daddy had surgery.” The brutal summer of radiation was called “the summer of radiation,” and a recent brief respite from hormone therapy was called “the medicine holiday.”
Living with such uncertainty also affects decisions when planning for a future event or activity. We always preface our plans with, “Let’s see how Dad is feeling then.” Some decisions are permanently excluded because we don’t know how he will be doing.
I began to ask God if our family would now be forever defined by cancer. In His wisdom and timing, He has shown us that we are defined by far greater things.
When each child makes a point to inquire, “How’s Dad doing today?” – We know we are a family defined by compassion.
When one of the kids or their friends mows the lawn because they know my husband is extra tired, we know we are a family defined by service to others.
When my daughter cooks dinner just because she sees we have had a hard day, we know we are a family defined by selflessness.
When one of the kids, unsolicited, gives Dad a head rub while he rests on the couch, we know we are a family defined by kindness.
When we gather as an extended family at Grandpa’s request and this 85-year-old pillar of faith insists we lock hands while he prays aloud; and when he prays for peace and healing but covers it all with a prayer of thankfulness for the privilege we have to be family; and as a few tears fall from Grandpa’s eyes as he reflects on the joy of the Lord and the joy yet to come – I know that we are a family defined by something far greater than cancer.
We are defined by love.