Not a Waste

In our last prayer letter, we mentioned a tree planting ceremony we had for Dad. That was back in July, I think, and now it's November, so clearly I'm not doing great with my updates! But as much as I consider myself a "thinker," not a "feeler"; as much as I 'deal with it and move on,' I have to confess this stuff with loosing a parent isn't easy. I've not found it easy to face the feelings and emotions, and have discovered what a cowardly avoid-er I actually am when it comes to unpleasant things!

But this tree-planting was a great idea, given to us by great friends, Don and Jane Jones here in Nairobi. It opened a can of worms the day we did it--Ethan in particular had emotional melt-down after melt-down, and I myself was on the grumpy side (though don't let Chad know I'm admitting it!) But it did, in an inexplicable way, give us something concrete to funnel our sadness into, or to remember Dad in a way that wasn't too raw or painful. And tending to the tree even now gives us a little something physical to do that seems to help. And bit by bit we're all doing better, I think, with time and with God and with counseling and with each other making adjustments and communicating love and acceptance better.

Loosing Dad so unexpectedly, so early, so quickly, so agonizingly slowly...I will never say that it was fun or good. I still maintain that evil's death and destruction and all that is wrong with the fallen world is personified in the face of ravaging cancer. I will never say that God made Dad suffer in order to teach me something, or to grow my family's depth or make us face issues we were trying to avoid. Never.

But cancer happened. And God was with us through it. And may I never be so blind or hard-hearted to not learn something through suffering. God forbid I waste Dad's cancer.

And so the dominoes of life fell at unexpected angles as they often do, triggering chain-reactions we didn't realize were there. Dad's death was a significant blow to our son, and overwhelmed his ability to process all the see-you-later-but-probably-not good-byes that he has faced in his short life. His grief led to challenging behaviors, because he's a kid, and that's what kids do when they are overwhelmed! It exposed weaknesses in our ability to correct his behaviors AND communicate love and acceptance, which led to depression, which led to counseling.

And counseling has led to better understanding, more acceptance, free-er expressions of unconditional love with Ethan, with our other kids, and with each other. It has forced self-reflection, and reliance on God.

So, when I watch this funny African pine tree (a perfect symbol for my quirky, Pacific Northwest father!) grow and thrive, I will always remember the other side of suffering. The growth that comes out of death, if you face it and roll with it and let it add to your life.

So, whatever you do, don't waste your suffering.



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