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The Journey Begins

Don's Journey

Gail and I are sitting in our hotel room in Harbor East Baltimore. This is one of our favorite get away spots. We enjoy looking over the harbor and the fountain below us. The sun is shining brightly and a chilly wind is howling between the buildings. We just had lunch with our daughter, Andrea, who lives a few miles from here. It was her move here that started our explorations of Baltimore. We love the old Fells Point neighborhood with is bars, live music, restaurants, and eclectic shops. It feels like a second home to us in recent years.

This mini-vacation is different. The past two weeks have been an emotional and physical roller-coaster for us. We thought that this short time away, without the distractions of the past two weeks, would immediately renew us. Wrong! Last night we sat in one of our favorite restaurants on the harbor, growing more ill as the evening progressed. Having time to think, and look into each other’s eyes, moved us to sorrow. This tragedy is beyond distraction.

On Friday December 16th, a little while before the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert in Hershey, we learned that Gail has pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. We love the Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas show. Gail got us the tickets for my birthday in October, along with our daughters, Andrea and Kristin. As we waited for the concert to begin, Gail was on her phone trying to set up a CT Scan later that day. We wanted to get the best testing done as soon as possible to make this diagnosis certain. Perhaps they had made a mistake. The music was starting when the technician told us to come over after the concert and she would do the scan.

Some birthday present eh?! For the next two-hours I sat and cried and worshipped God. I was glad the room was dark so that my wife, children, and other concert goers could not see me sobbing. The TSO Christmas concert is how I envision heaven. Praising God, no holds barred, 110 decibels, with everything you’ve got. I know it’s not for everyone, but that is the room I’ll be seeking when I get to heaven. I knew my wife was enjoying this concert, even in the midst of this brand-new Christmas tragedy delivered to our doorstep just before the big day.

I was utterly stunned, and, for the most part, remain in that state. As many of you know, one does not absorb this kind of news all at once. It happens in stages. We are not designed to process tragedy all at once. This is a blessing. I, for one, would not have survived. “My wife could be dying at age fifty-eight.” My love, my best friend, my buddie, the one with whom I love to hang out, my travel partner, my counselor, my healer, my beauty, my sounding board, my common sense, my cheerleader, and my lover. For thirty-six years, we have experienced the agony and ecstasy of growing a really-good marriage. All of that cut short, a few years before retirement. This sucks.

So, I will continue to write, but for our readers; I will not be candy-coating our story, nor mincing words. I am a pastor, and many people have preconceived ideas of how a pastor acts, re-acts, and feels. I’ve never so much felt like a pastor I guess – whatever that is supposed to be. I’m just a regular person, called by God, but no less regular. My close friends and family know this fact well. If Gail and I are going to share this experience, we want it to be authentic and accurate.

Having said that, it is important to both of us for you to know that we do not question God about her illness, nor are we angry. God spent a huge amount of space in His Word, the Bible, telling us and showing us through other people’s lives, that life is difficult, sometimes miserable. He never gives any candy-coated view of our existence on earth. This is not heaven. Jesus told us that we would have many problems in this life – period. You cannot have victory without struggle. There is no healing, if there is no disease. There is no resurrection, if there is no death.

So, we spent much of the rest of the evening in the hospital waiting for the CT results. The scan confirmed our deepest fears. Gail has inoperable pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. This is a fatal disease. There is no cure yet. But God is in control and God is good. His specialty is taking that which is tragic and evil and bad, and turning it into something beneficial. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Now it is our turn in a bigger and more difficult way for us, than ever. I tend to get angry and blow off about something like this, but not yet. We are being held up by the prayers of thousands.

My wife is dying, but so are we all. We will see if God intervenes with a miracle of healing. For this, we are all praying. Either way, Gail and I live with hope and assurance. Jesus also said, “but take heart, I have overcome the world.” We believe He did and still does through us. For now, this is miserable for both of us. But as Job revealed, how can we accept the good from God and not the bad. Only immature children do that. God is maturing us.

I will regress and write more about the two weeks leading up to this point, but I can’t put it all in one post. Thank you for joining us in this journey. If you think this might help someone else, please pass the link along.