Today, a year ago, my father was diagnosed with deadly cancer. His oncologists call it "inoperable and uncurable Stage IV Adenocarcinoma." In lay terms, it's lung cancer, crazy-mutated cells of large tumors that don't stop growing, in his lungs, and in him also on his spine, and in him also present as 6 additional tumors inside his skull, right in his brain. When I heard the doctor speak, much for me stopped. I wanted to stop blogging, to start giving as much attention as I could to my father and my mother. And my blogging did halt. However.
A big surprise for me is that Dad has been so healthy in his year-long battle against the disease. Last month, he wrote, "To this point I have not been confined to bed—nor spent one day in the hospital. This is God’s doing and we praise Him!"
And it's true. For the past 365 days, I've either been with Dad in person or have talked with him by phone, nearly daily. The early radiation on his head, to battle the brain tumors, caused a few little lapses in his short term memory. The chemotherapies have taken their toll on his hair and his strength. He prefers to walk now with a cane. But he's sharp as a tack. And he's taken time to receive hundreds of visitors into his home with my mother. Mom has been his chauffeur, since he no longer can drive a vehicle, and they've been to visit my little family's home, and one of my sibling's family's home, in cities some distance from their own home. In May, he went to his granddaughter's graduation from high school, a long ceremony in another city, and a party afterwards at our home.
A bigger surprise for me is how much healthier this man I call Dad has become spiritually. I think I've blogged some about his emotional maturity, his repentance of his past abuses, his attempts at reconciliations of all sorts with so many especially those of his household, his kindnesses to Mom and to his children and to his grandchildren. He no longer treats her as his helpmeet. He now calls her his soulmate. He now is writing about her as his best friend. He considers her his equal. He knows with his head (riddled with tumors), deeply breathes with his lungs (so full of final-stage cancer), and has resolved with his backbone (dis-eased by a mass) how wonderful she is. She is created by God in God's image. Today, on this very anniversary of his deadly cancer diagnosis, here's what he wrote: "I truly am grateful for all she does to make our lives full and meaningful. But as I pondered my thoughts, I realized that my “thank you” meant more than a word of appreciation. I was feeling gratitude for our shared life—for the person she is, for sharing the challenges and walking faithfully with me in this climb to overcome cancer, for the encouragement she gives (sometimes pushing me along)." This is, for my father, a huge change. Can we call it a conversion? Meta-Noia?
Yesterday, one of his granddaughters, my eldest daughter, was with a boyfriend. This young man was expressing to our family how he cannot read the Bible. He'd been to church. He'd heard the preacher preaching. He'd listened to this man reading the Bible. He'd drawn sharp conclusions. "The Bible says, 'Women can't preach.'" "The Bible says, 'Women have to be quiet in church.'" "The Bible says, 'Females can't wear beautiful clothes or their beauty on the outside.'" I won't have any part of that stupidity. My daughter stood up for the Bible but didn't back down for women. This is a strong young woman, one who's had a few disagreements with her grandfathers, especially with my Dad, over the biblical strengths of a woman, the biblical voices of women. My daughter has an eyebrow ring, a new ring in her nose, a couple of tattoos. This also has dismayed her grandfathers, both preachers. Both men are SBC ministers. Both are "complementarians" who have also interpreted their Bible for today as meaning that women, because they are born into bodies sexed female, cannot have any of the leadership roles above men in their homes or in their church.
Well, this granddaughter of my father knows a thing or two herself about cancer survivorship. She once had a deadly case of the disease. It had infected her liver. Long story short, she needed an organ transplant, and I was selected to be her organ donor. So there's this incarnation of me in her, which is pretty remarkable for both of us. I've found myself saying these past 15 years, "This is God’s doing and we praise Him!"
But the physical health and transformations are hardly the half of it. It's the deep spiritual and relational changes that count most for me. And my daughter, her mother, her grandmothers, have continued to be equal with her grandfathers and her father, equal in the image of God, equally created, equally capable and called in leadership roles of various sorts. My daughter did not have to be silent to her boyfriend yesterday. He didn't like what he'd heard from a complementarian preacher; and so he'd given up on the Bible and its messages of creation and re-creation and the beauty of God's image in women and in men. But my daughter didn't shut up. She's encouraging him to listen to her, to listen to other ways to listen to the scriptures. There's an incarnation there, which stresses humanity and humanness and not one sex exclusive of or in complement to or over the other.
Jane Stranz, blogger, yesterday writes of ways three bloggers have inspired and intrigued her. She kindly included me among two of my favorite bloggers, Suzanne, and David. And Jane also said of me that I have "had several blogging incarnations but despite a bit of time offline is still very much on form these days." Indeed, around a year ago I noticed, "I’ve blogged at four different blogs, saying many different things." And then Dad got sick, was facing the worst, and I was pretty sure for a good while that I didn't want to say anything anymore. Sitting with Mom, waiting, I was sure it was good to be with them much more as much as I was able. But then Dad started modeling health to me in new and fresh ways, the health of a biblical man, coming into biblical manhood. As long as I could, I wanted to blog more about that. Some days, there's an inspiration from the incarnations. Some days there's not. Today there is!