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Next to Normal

What defines normal? Would my life be considered normal? Does my rising in the morning, driving to work, coming home, eating meals, visiting, painting, sleeping constitute normal? Does my renovating world, living at my mom and dad’s equate to normal?

There are thousands of Facebook posts about it. There are hundreds and hundreds of videos talking about it. There are countless stories being shared about it. There are many people who have gone through it. I have walked with and have been close to others who have gone and are going through it. I’ve listened to the stories, sat with the tears, prayed silently through their pain, hugged, smiled, encouraged.

But nothing… nothing… absolutely nothing prepared me for the reality – for the earth shattering change from ‘normal’ that descended on me this past Monday. My dad uttered the phrase, “I have been diagnosed with cancer.”

My crazy messed up life: living with the folks, painting, renovating every available hour after work, living in a small space separated from my two daughters with just a wall of thin white fabric, selling, buying – that was normal. That was so very, very normal.

And now… I live beside normal. Normal is right there, but I can’t go there anymore. For those of you who have journeyed this road – you will understand this – you get this. This sucks. It literally sucks the very breath out of your body. This man – my dad – my father – my mentor – my Superman, has cancer. And the pain wells up again, and again, and again. The tears… you’d think that at some point the water would dry up? But nope!

Here’s the strange part. Life goes on. We are walking beside normal and we are still breathing. Part of me feels like life should stop, take a break, and let us catch our breath. But we continue to walk beside normal.

My dad wants to live life. He wants to keep working in our crazy, messy renovations – it inspires him, it keeps him active, it keeps him alive. He smiles and says, “No matter the outcome – I will be a winner.” His hugs are harder and longer. His tears come a little more frequently (now, he is a Warkentin, so those tears already came quite a bit!). He asks us to pray for mom.

Mom – his best friend, his love, his muse – is struggling. This is hard. This is not normal. This – for no better word – sucks. There is a heaviness in our day to day. There is a heaviness in the unknown. There is the inevitable… what if? There is the darkness that wants to encompass her (us). It is exhausting to push that darkness aside – physically and emotionally. Pray for my mom. Pray for strength to dig out and find strength for whatever this journey has in store.

We don’t know the road yet to be taken. We only know the word, cancer, and we know it is in the throat/esophagus. Dad is told to prepare for chemo and surgery. Next week he goes for a CT scan and then… guess we will cross that bridge when we get there. Till then we stand on a road that we have never been on before. Not with that immediate family member. Not with my dad. We look around and all around we see normal. We see daily activities happening. We participate in daily activities. Dad goes to our house every day faithfully and works. Bernie gives him a list and he works at his own pace without complaint. I guess he works in normal but lives just outside of it.

I am lifted by the prayers that are being said all around us. We are finding strength in friends, relatives, hugs, tears, laughter. We find peace in the mundane, in the doing, in the eating, in the painting and hammering.

Please continue to uphold my parents in your prayers – prayers for their faith to remain strong – prayer for their bodies to remain strong – prayers for permission to be sometimes just be angry – prayers for permission to sometimes just be sad – prayers for the ability to come out of those moments.

I am reminded that our Lord Jesus, on the night before he was arrested, went to the garden to pray. And in that prayer He asked that the trial lying before him be removed. He also said, 'but not my will be done but yours.'* He then prayed again, 'if I have to journey this road then I will journey it.'* He told his disciples that his soul was crushed with horror and sadness (Living Bible). Jesus understood what fear of the unknown felt like. He understands our fears. He also stood up to those fears and walked forward leaning fully on the power of his Father, our Father. (*paraphrased by yours truly)

Tears will come. But so will laughter and so will growth. With our God on our side and our family and friends surrounding us and praying for us…

… we will walk beside normal.

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