What I Learned From Leukemia: Revisiting the Battleground

My dear Friend,
You have waited patiently for me to fully answer your questions. I tried to the best of my ability, from the middle of the story. Tonight I sat and felt like the answer in my heart had finally formed into words– how can I have Faith that directly opposes my feelings? How can I be willing to make peace with my child’s potential death? Why am I still grieving and when will it stop?

The answers were flowing freely when my computer hiccuped and my writing was lost. A search for my draft yielded only one from April, a mere three weeks before we were released and moved to a new state.  I love you, so I’ll let you eavesdrop.
April 4, 2015

I’m sitting in a darkened hospital room in the middle of the day. For days I have pondered and held things in my heart that are precious treasures– wanting to share them but not quite able. I know that if I don’t open the treasure chest of my heart they will be buried and only benefit me, so I am opening my chest to show you how Christ is working in my heart.

I am sorely disappointed today. Despite fervent prayers for his recovery, William’s counts dropped and we will be in the hospital much longer than originally anticipated. I hoped we would be done by now. I thought that by today I would be at home, celebrating with my family and resting. Complications now indicate another week in the hospital. Exhaustion, excruciating pain and disappointment feel like a dagger’s acute pain on top of scar tissue that knows this too well. I’m tired of making a home in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’m tired or watching a newsfeed of friends crying over the televised death of a fictional doctor when people are crying over the deaths of their children down the hall. The stark contrast makes me struggle to keep my heart soft. Suffering can make hearts hard, and I am tempted to do so out of self protection. I am now looking back and praying that I suffered well and glorified the Lord.

I have seen the glory of the Lord in the Land of the Living. I learned it is okay to hate suffering and to wish the trial would end. If Jesus can ask for a way out and yet submit, I am free to as well.

I am ready to rejoice. The glittering illusions that this will be over and things will get easier are tempered with reality. I firmly believe this is NOT the hardest thing I will endure in my lifetime, or even one of the top 5. Christ develops perseverance in us when these trials come. A soldier doesn’t go to the difficult training before Basic Training. Theoretically, the courses and demands increase over time. God ALWAYS gives us more than we can handle, but never more than HE can handle. I am happiest when I am most humbled because that is when God shows up. He loves to part the Red Sea for us– we are often too busy building bridges to allow it.

Likewise, there is a greater joy and comfort that comes from suffering. Seeing friends and family in the hospital has been a glorious joy- more so than if it were not so desperate. William’s crawling, standing, new words, weight gain, and even smiles after hours of crying are more valuable to me than if he had been ‘the leader of the pack’. I know he is alive and thriving despite all odds because God has been gracious and heard prayers. I know that my strength is feeble and pitiful– and I have felt the rush of power that comes from the Holy Spirit. I have felt the comfort of the Most High God because I have been broken and helpless, unable to accomplish or handle anything on my own.   Diamonds sparkle more brightly against black velvet.

Back to the present, my Friend. 70 days have passed. Now I am left to grapple with finding a New Normal without forgetting what I have learned. There is much to grapple with. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of the hospital, although it was Hell in many ways. The people there were valuable and unforgettable, for they were alongside me for the fight of Will’s life. I miss them. When someone asks why my two year old is so small, not walking or not able to feed himself, images of his life flash before my eyes but I can’t make them understand. I have learned that a life yielded to Christ is full of suffering, but never suffering alone.

I am learning that God is sovereign and good AND he allows suffering. It seems like a contradiction. I know my son thinks I am cruel and untrustworthy when I withhold something good or discipline him for disobedience because I love him and have something else in mind. He fights against me as I spend hours helping him learn to walk, to drink, to progress when he would rather do it his way which could have dangerous penalties. If he will trust me, he will see all I have and more importantly, we will have a relationship beyond his expectations. It is the same with God, although sometimes the pain is so intense that I drop to my knees and just picture Christ in human form hugging and holding me in my brokenness. My weakness has never been so evident, painful or beautiful. Truth be told, I scared my Jonathan when I started crying as I sang, “Jesus Loves Me” to him one night. “I am weak but He is strong…yes, Jesus loves me.”

This is where I will end for now, Dear Friend. The grappling with grief, adjustment, advice on how to grieve with someone well, etc. will all come in time when I find a voice for my heart. Until then, thank you for being with me in this place.
William Erkkila 003


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