Christmas is a special time of year celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is also a time that brings families and friends together exchanging gifts, sharing wonderful meals, and just enjoying each others’ company. We often think of all we have to be thankful for on this day, but maybe we should try to appreciate the things we have all year long.
During the course of everyday living, it is easy to dwell on the things that are wrong in our lives. There is always something to worry about and whatever those worries are, they are often hard to put out of our minds and can tend to occupy the majority of our thoughts.
When Tommy was diagnosed with cancer, that was one of the worst days of my life. All seemed hopeless and I felt lost. I looked at all of the family members, and I saw those same feelings of shock and helplessness in everyone else’s eyes also. The pain was unbearable and I was scared for Tommy; I couldn’t begin to imagine how he must feel. I wanted to take away his fears, but I couldn’t. All I could do was be there for him. Those thoughts still creep into my mind on a regular basis, but I have learned so much from Tommy that it is becoming easier to drive away the negative thoughts. Of course, I still wish I could snap my fingers and Tommy would be cured forever, but since I can’t, I can only trust God that there is a reason things are happening as they are.
I was cooking dinner the other night when Tommy made the remark, “I’ve always been lucky in life.” I paused for a moment as I tried to understand how he could consider himself lucky when he is battling pancreatic cancer. I didn’t say anything to him, but continued working in the kitchen while trying to process this in my mind. It took some time, but then I began to realize that he was right. Despite his diagnosis, he has been lucky in life, and so have I.
What we are dealing with is part of life, just like the countless others we see every time we go to the cancer center. To us they are nameless faces, but to someone else they are the world. They are all someone’s family member, someone who is loved, someone who received the same diagnosis of cancer that left another family also feeling devastated and scared. Yet, they are all there, brave souls who are moving forward and fighting for their lives. Most importantly, they are living their lives. These people truly appreciate every day of life.
I thought about when we were told that Tommy probably had six months to a year to live, and then I smiled - he is now enjoying his fourth Christmas since his diagnosis, without being hooked up to a chemo pump. He has become the poster boy for the cancer center on how to live with pancreatic cancer. God is good and we are truly fortunate.
I started thinking about how lucky we both are to have such supportive family members in our lives. I thought about the last three years and the amazingly wonderful times we have had. We’ve made several trips to the southwest, several trips to Florida and to Myrtle Beach, and numerous trips to the mountains. We’ve gone hiking and bike riding, been out on boats, been to several races that he loves so much, and he has watched his grandchildren continue to grow. We spent his birthday in Andy Griffith’s childhood home and we got to meet Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), a highlight for him. I could go on and on because there are so many things we have done, and I plan for us to do a lot more. My goal is to keep him encouraged and looking forward to his next adventure. We still have our bad days, but the good ones far outnumber the bad. And most importantly, we laugh, a lot. Despite his illness, we are continuing to live our lives with new hope for each day.
Last week, we received a Christmas gift from a family member that was almost unbelievable to us. Because of medical bills, we have both been driving older cars hoping that they would keep running. We received a gift of a car, the very kind that Tommy had been wanting to buy but we simply couldn’t afford. We are both so excited, but thought and thought about how to repay someone for this. We walked around the stores trying to find the perfect gift for this person. We finally settled on a nice gift, but it still didn’t seem like enough. We know she doesn’t expect repayment; she doesn’t even want others to know what she did for us. It’s just the type of person she is, always doing for others. So how do we repay someone for always being there when we need them? We can’t. We can only say thank you so very much to her for all she has done. Yes, Tommy was right. We truly are lucky in life and we need to remember this every day.
Enjoy your day today with all of your loved ones; hug them and tell them you love them. Appreciate all that God has given you. Life is short, so we have to live and enjoy every day.
Merry Christmas my friends!
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