This is a guest post from my friend Laurie.
I have tried to write this over and over again for the past two weeks. Granted, it was not the same subject each time around… I began intending to write about the recent visit of the Watoto Children’s Choir to our church at the beginning of the year. Call it writer’s block, I just couldn’t seem to finish it in a way I found satisfactory.
So I moved on and decided to write about miracles, but there is much to be said on the matter and I could not find an agreeable way to condense it without shortchanging the subject material. I guess what it comes right down to is that when I have something else on my heart, the only thing I can do is write about that and then usually what happens is that I can move on to other things. I suspect God has a purpose in the journey I am on right now and my sharing it with you.
About a month ago, I guess, I received word that my Uncle Dave has cancer. I say, “I guess,” because when one is in the midst of these things the passage of time seems horribly askew.
Now, my Uncle Dave is not my mom’s brother, nor is he my dad’s brother. The best way to explain it is that he grew up as one of my dad’s best friends. After mom and dad divorced, he remained my mom’s friend but slowly grew apart from my dad. My mom remarried when I was four.
Now, there were times growing up that I did not get to see my dad too much. And although my stepdad was a decent fellow, he coached one sport or another and was not home much. But Uncle Dave was always there. In fact, I went back through old photos not long ago and it seems that Uncle Dave was almost always there.
He was there when I went sledding for the first time, when I lost my first tooth, and when I rode my bike for the first time. He took me to chase down my childhood hero, Kirk Gibson, for his autograph at a Tiger’s game. He was there to cheer me on at my softball games. He was the one to drive me home from college in Iowa during Christmas break. He was at the hospital when my son Ian was born. I also recall that he was there to hold Ian to buy me a few moments of precious sleep when the little guy would not rest.
But something happened and I didn’t see Uncle Dave anymore. It wasn’t anything big or dramatic—not at all. And when I try really hard to think about what happened, I can’t come up with anything. The only thing I could fathom is just that life has a way of dragging your attention off in countless directions and sometimes you drift from the people that should be most important to you.
Fast forward things a bit and I found myself at the hospital with my son, now 12, in tow. Uncle Dave was not doing so well and his legs were swollen and he was in extreme pain. At this point, I should explain, he has been sick since August, and it was just before December when he was diagnosed. Treatment eluded him since he had no healthcare as a result of job loss. A doctor at home in Toledo determined he needed surgery to remove the tumor but due to its location he would be in the best care at The Cleveland Clinic. He was waiting for his Medicaid to kick in before arrangements could be made to get him to Cleveland. Unfortunately, this gave the tumor time to grow and it did so quite rapidly. He has been at the hospital for a few weeks now.
During this time, he has gone through radiation to shrink the tumor in hopes it will be operable. When he arrived in Cleveland, we were told it was inoperable because of its proximity to the kidney’s main vein. This is only the smallest fraction of the story. Each day seems to present itself with other health challenges that coexist with the cancer itself. I don’t know how much longer I will have him.
A bitter pill to swallow
While I am not inclined to bare my soul, I suspect that in the end, if I can save someone the regret I feel now, it is worth sharing this. My prayers have been frequent—throughout the day and when I wake in the middle of the night, I have asked for a miracle, for healing, for guidance for the doctors, surgeons, and nurses working on him, for relief from the pain, that God’s will be done, that His glory be revealed in this, and most often I have been pleading with God for just a little more time with Uncle Dave.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus gives the parable of the talents or bags of gold. It leads me to the following thought…
Everything we have is a gift from God—not just our money, but our time and the people God has placed in our lives. It occurred to me that as I was growing up, God was looking out for me even if I was not wholly aware of it. When my own dad was not there as much as I’d have liked, He filled that hole in my life with Uncle Dave. I regret not seeing him for the blessing that he was.
As it relates to stewardship, I could have done so much better in the care I took of Uncle Dave as one of the Lord’s blessings in my life. I certainly could have invested my time much more wisely. To be sure, I understand that would not necessarily mean spending every day with Uncle Dave, but it should look more like love…calling to say hi or to check on him, inviting him over for dinner, and maybe going to a ballgame with him.
I am not sure what will happen and I am not counting him out yet. I have spent some good time with him these past few weeks and when I have not been able to be in Cleveland, I have talked with him on the phone. While speaking with Uncle Dave, I realized he has his own regrets, too, about not picking up the phone and calling me. We cried together as we promised that if he makes it out of this, we won’t waste time the way we did before. When he has felt well enough, we have also talked about his Buckeyes (he still ribs me that they beat my Hawkeyes), the Red Wings, and how my son is doing in school. He shared with me that he has been praying and talking to God a lot. I thank God that in His mercy and goodness He has given me this much time with Uncle Dave.
The notion that there is no more time left is a daunting one and one that leaves us shuddering from the weight of regret if it has truly (indeed) run out and we are left with words unspoken, memories left uncreated, love that has been carelessly discarded.
The point …
While I am certainly sharing some of this as a kind of reminder to stay in touch with people that are important to you, there is a larger issue at hand. Please excuse the seeming morbidity in this statement, but for all of us, our time on earth runs out. Part of being a good steward of the time you have is the investment you make into His kingdom. For every person that cries out to the Lord and calls Him Savior in their last hours, I rejoice that He has welcomed another brother or sister home. He loves us so much that He is willing, no matter the hour, to respond to that call. Indeed, He waits for it.
While He does not hold our time away from Him against us, I suspect it would be one of those things we feel regret for—that we did not spend more of the life He gave us living it for Him. To that end, if you are waiting, please don’t. Why grieve tomorrow for the time you could have given Him today?