Brave Part I

Brave-to face or endure with courage

In the world of cancer treatment it is known that sometimes the treatment causes problems of its own. Medicines strong enough to kill the bad cells of cancer also kill some of the good cells. The hope is that the good cells recover and come back, the bad ones don’t. During my son’s long months of chemotherapy there were times he needed transfusions of blood and platelets. Many was the time we drove the hour to our beloved Children’s Hospital to get one or the other, or both. They had to be administered through his I.V. very slowly. If he needed both it was understood that we would be there all day.

One long we day we had outlasted all but one other patient and her Mother. Anna Grace was 12 and had been fighting for a long time, the horror of a cancer for which there was never any hope of cure, only the hope of time, precious time. Recently she had been too sick to go to her 8th grade graduation, the last grade she would ever complete, so they had brought it to her. Her Mother showed me the pictures as waited. And in the pictures I had seen on her face the same look I had seen on her face that morning. A 1000 yard stare of such blankness and resignation, as though she already had a foot in the next world and would soon be going. It was a look I had come to recognize over the months we had been coming to the clinic and it was as reliable as any biopsy or MRI to indicate who would soon be gone.

Today they were here like us, to get blood and platelets. A full day in the clinic and we had again outlasted all, even some of the employees whose shifts had come and gone as we sat there. We were getting it to be ready for the next round of treatment, they were getting it so that she would feel well enough to go to the beach one last time. It was the end of the day and the lights were low as the two patients slept in their recliners in the infusion room. Anna Grace’s Mother sat beside her, her Bible in her lap.

Out of nowhere she burst into tears, a sudden, violent storm of weeping, inarticulate but conveying all the anguish and grief and sorrow that could ever be. I started to go to her but felt the gentle restraining hand of Spirit to stay put and let her have this moment. I prayed silently for her, for all of us, as my own tears slid down my face.

After a moment, it was over. She took a deep breath, dried her eyes and blew her nose. She reached over to pat her sleeping daughter and then picked up her Bible and began to read again.

That was so many years ago now, my own little patient is 20 years old, and so far away from all of that that it seems like another life. I guess if Anna Grace had lived she would be a young woman now. I hope the years have brought healing to her family and that they have known joy again. But that moment has stayed with me, an image seared on my mind of courage and strength. Of what it means to be brave.

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