The conversation is a familiar one; I have it almost weekly. “Oh, I see leukemia is listed next to William’s name. How is he doing?” What a loaded question. I answer simply, “He is currently in remission.” Usually a simple, “Oh, good!” will transition to next question but every so often, I get one of the great Question-Askers. These are not the nosy ones who love the nitty gritty details; these are the deep thinkers who drive the mudane and daily into our souls with pointed questions.
“Remission. What’s that really mean to you?”
My father’s worn, brown and gold Webster’s American Dictionary that has petals pressed inside it defines remission as 1. Pardon, forgiveness 2. Release from a debt, tax 3. An abating, as if from heat or pain
Remission and recovery are two entirely different things. For us, both are happening. What most see happening is recovery. Think of the storm victims we see on television each year. The proud homes they once relied upon for shelter and memory storage is now a pile of scattered pieces. News crews shove cameras in their faces, some of them crying, and ask them to describe their loss, their experience in the storm and perhaps prod for an encouraging message of hope and rebuilding. They look out on all they knew, remembering each detail and somehow being trapped in the trauma, all while beginning to strengthen and rebuild. These things happen simultaneously.
Too often we think that we just recover from grief. I don’t think that is the case. To no longer see William suffering with pain and to see his body breaking in order to save it is a pardon. The joy of having my son and home slowly restored in spite of my inability is sweeter than a forgiven debt I can’t pay back.
Then there is the abating. So often when our pain stops, the healing is not immediate. When skin is burned, it must painfully restore. The consequences remain, even when the trauma ends. Sometimes when we are shattered, we get back up but we walk with a limp. That is why we must lean on each other.
The abating is not enough. We must abide.
The people dearest to me were the ones who were quick to answer a call, to provide a meal and to bravely come and witness our trauma. For nearly 5 of the 6 months, I abided with William. When the battle comes, we need battle buddies who say, “I am with you”, not “everything will be alright.”
It may not be alright. The children die. The spouse leaves. The goals shatter. The money runs out. We cling to something as we let go. How precious are Jesus’ promises, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” and “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”
My darlings, William’s body will always bear the scars. My heart is changed. The task is that it must now be changed for the better. We are slowly rebuilding. We are looking at how life was before and trying to sort out the mess of what changed things. We were stripped down to the foundation and found that it was on rock, not sinking sand. It felt like being trapped underwater too long– lungs aching, adrenaline rushing and desperate for it to end. Remission feels like gasping for air but needing to lie down and breathe before trying to swim again…while everyone else is cannon balling of the high dive.
I do not have the answers. I can’t promise that it is going to be okay; that bitterness, heartache and pain will not consume you. I can simply tell you that Jesus is where the pardon, the forgiveness, and the abating is, for his blood “brings the remission of sins”. Sin causes suffering, but the beauty of remission can be known.
When we abide we are present. We can hear the heart, smell the breath and memorize the being of another. During trauma it is easy to cling to God as the whiplash runs through the body. It is afterward, when the rubble is around and the abating makes the abiding a choice that it matters. That is when the joy and the rebuilding comes.Friends, are you in remission or are you looking for an easy recovery? When we are recovered, we don’t need a Healer, a Savior or a God. When we are simply in remission, we can abide. That is why suffering is so sweet.