*On March 1st at 4:34 pm my wife went to dance with Jesus. About two months before she took her last breath, I wrote the piece below. Even though she’s in the arms of Jesus now, this story and the lesson in it ring truer than ever.
My wife has cancer. Again. Yep, that’s right, I said again. You see, she had already beaten it once, just over a year ago. I mean, we took a victory trip to Palm Springs and toasted the fact that the final test results had come in and we’d kicked cancer’s ass.
But it came back. And it wasn’t supposed to come back. At least, I didn’t think it was supposed to come back. And it for sure wasn’t supposed to come back this fast. I mean, we beat it. It was gone. We had our “cancer chapter,” and we sure didn’t need to have another one.
But you see, cancer doesn’t care what you want or what you feel or what you think is fair.
Cancer is a jerk. It can ruin plans, it can ruin finances, it can ruin relationships, and it can even ruin lives. It doesn’t care how much or how little money you have. It doesn’t care if you’re educated or not. It doesn’t care what religion you are or what you believe. I’m just letting you know that cancer doesn’t care what your agenda is because it has got its own.
We have three kids. They are 8, 7, and 5. And we don’t hide Mommy’s cancer from them. We are honest. We are open. We cry together. We laugh together. We enjoy the good days Mommy has and we even embrace the hard days. We don’t really have a choice in the matter. So we just embrace all the days, because in the end, having another day is all we can ask for.
You see, a few years ago, we didn’t live like this. We took days, and weeks, and even years for granted. We lived our lives like we had an unlimited amount of time left. We don’t do that anymore. We don’t take a single moment for granted. We can’t afford to. And if you get nothing out of reading this, get that. Because you can’t afford to, either. You just don’t know what tomorrow holds.
So, love your people and love them hard. Don’t wait for a diagnosis or a tragedy or death to do this. Please. Just trust me on this one.
And if we’re being completely honest (and I am because no one can tell me not to be right now) in the end, everyone has their “hard.” Our hard just happens to be cancer right now. But each and every one of us is dealing with or will be dealing with a hard sooner than later.
Maybe you are on the chopping block at work and you know layoffs are on the way. Losing a job is super hard.
Maybe you and your spouse have tried for years and years and just can’t get pregnant. Infertility is super hard.
Maybe you’ve got a family member or a friend that struggles with addiction and can’t seem to kick the habit no matter how many times an overdose causes death to knock at their door. Addiction is super hard.
Maybe you and your spouse fight nonstop and you both know where this is heading. Divorce is super hard.
Maybe every day is a struggle for you and just getting out of bed each morning is your biggest victory. Depression is super hard.
Everyone has their hard.
And unfortunately, we live in a society where all too often, we ignore other people’s hards. I’m not saying that’s been the case with us. Trust me, that’s been far from the case. I mean it when I say, “Wanna feel loved? Get cancer.” Because never in our lives have we felt so loved and cared for.
But that may not be the case for the barista you ignore each morning who heads home after each shift only to take care of her dying mother.
Or the flight attendant you lost your patience with last week who is going through a messy divorce, can’t seem to get her life together, and has been contemplating suicide each night in every new city she’s in.
Or the coworker who gets on your nerves so much you simply ignore her day in and day out. Did you know she leaves work only to head home to her abusive spouse?
Or the single mom you just had to flip off when she accidentally cut you off today on the way to work. Did you know her son was just deployed overseas for the first time last night?
We just don’t know who we will come across today and what they are going through.
Or maybe it’s me. Maybe you sat next to me on the plane today. Did you know that, barring a miracle, my wife’s cancer isn’t going to go away? And that the survival odds of someone with this type of cancer aren’t in our favor? That this morning, before boarding the plane, I sat and watched as they wheeled her back to the operating room for yet another procedure?
Did you know that we have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that continue to stack up each day? And that, to be honest, we don’t really care how many more procedures we get or how much debt we accrue because nothing else matters right now except getting her better?
Did you know that a week ago, we were told that the cancer had spread into her brain and that we had conversations we never in the world thought we’d have to have?
And did you know that 24 hours later we got a second opinion and we were told that it wasn’t in her brain? And that today we are as confused as ever trying to figure out who is right, what’s right, and how we fix this?
Of course, you didn’t know that.
But I’m that guy. The guy next to you. And as you complained about there not being enough ice in your drink and the baby that wouldn’t stop crying in the back of the plane, my wife is at home with a pounding headache that hasn’t gone away for three straight weeks. She may or may not have brain cancer. My kids may or may not have their mom next Christmas. I may or may not have the love of my life for the rest of my life, like the fairytales told me I would.
You weren’t supposed to know that. And I didn’t tell you any of that. I wouldn’t want to put that on you.
The point is that we just don’t know who we will come across today and what they are going through. We have no idea what their hard is but there is a really good chance it’s there. And we need to be better. I’m not saying we need to be better at recognizing their hards, because more often than not, it won’t be evident.
Spend less time asking what you can do for them and just do.
Our hard is easy to see for most people who know us because my wife has no hair and because we choose to be vocal about it. We choose to let people know what we are going through, not for sympathy, but for awareness and for prayers. We want others to take the cancer signs seriously, no matter how young or how healthy they may think they are. And we want prayers because we serve a big God who can do big things. And we believe in miracles.
People are hurting all around us and we just need to be better. We need to be more kind. We need to have more patience. We need to give more grace. We need to love people more.
And finally, when you do know someone is going through a hard, spend less time asking what you can do for them and just do.
I get asked every single day by those that love us, “What can I do to help?”
And I love it that so many people want to help. It truly is incredible how much people want to help. But in the end, even I don’t know what I can do to help make this better. I can’t fix this and that’s so hard for me. Most days I can’t do a thing to make it better and most days you can’t either.
So instead of asking what you can do for anyone going through their hard—just do.
If you want to take them a meal, do it. If you want to send a gift card or a note, do it. If you want to pray for them, do it.
If you want to hug them, just hug them and hug them hard. Don’t ask for permission, just do. Whatever that thing is that you want to do, just do.
That’s one of the most beautiful things about love. It just does.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.