Monday, August 13, 2007

Where is God? Hospice Is Not Giving Up; Even Against Cancer (continued from Aug 5)

Hospice Doesn't Mean Giving Up

Again, I acknowledged the terrible emotional ride that dad was going through. There is nothing worse than parents who are facing the "unnatural" or "unjust" act of burying their child. There is no good reason why an 8 year old boy has to die from cancer.

This is the hardest time to pray, "thy will be done." Dad told me that he was trying so hard to figure out the reason why David had to suffer as he has over the past two years. He was looking at everything that was going on to see what God's purpose was, what good was going to come out of this tragedy.

I didn't say anything for about 8 seconds. I wanted to be sure he wanted me to say something. He looked at me, expecting a comment, I said, "For one thing, David, even in his youth, is teaching us to suffer as he faces death. There isn't much comfort there, but, he will always be an inspiration to you and your family the next time you face something terrible..."

He interrupted me, in quivering voice with tears welling up in his eyes, he proudly said, "Oh my God, I can't believe what he has faced in the last couple of years," then he turned to look at David lying in a fetal position in bed, and continued, "the needles, the treatments, the hair loss, the pain, the stares from people, and on and on... what a trooper! I can face anything that comes my way and it'll be easier than what he has suffered."

I waited a few moments and then said, "Another amazing thing that comes out of such terrible suffering is how families begin to heal troubled relationships. When facing something like this, it puts life in perspective and people realize what is really important."

David's father replied, "You know, that's already happened..." then, he went on to explain how his wife and her sister have mended their relationship because they were fighting over some family matters.

Where is God? Why?

Then, I took the opportunity to explain how God works through His creation. Where is God? How is He caring for David and His family? God works through the gifts He gave to David.

  • Mom and Dad are doing the work of the Lord by caring for their child.
  • God is there through "Hockey Mom," who is helping to organize their lives and the help other friends are offering the family.
  • God is working in the driver who dropped off medical supplies.
  • God is working through the makers of the car the driver used to drive an 90 minutes west of St. Louis to deliver the pain relieving drugs.
  • God is working through those who are wanting to care for the spiritual needs of David's family.
  • God is working through scientists, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospitals, the people who keep the hospital clean, the engineers, brick masons, etc., who worked to make it possible for David to be diagnosed, treated, cared for, and ease his pain.

The list goes on and on. I explained these things to dad and he began to understand, but, his emotional pain was too great to grasp it as comfort. This is very understandable.

God works through means, through His creation, not only for our physical needs but also for our spiritual needs. The truth is, we are both physical and spiritual at the same time. God cares for both at the same time. He loves and cares for David in His suffering. As a matter of fact, God Himself, His entire revelation of love is understood by us on earth only through His sacrifice, suffering, and death. The message of Christ is not one of everything is good, perfect, and always goes our way. Rather, the message of Christ is to grasp our eternal lives by faith and He strengthens us so that we might endure the suffering of this life. However, He suffered for us, in our stead, and gives us strength, mercy, and comfort in the midst of our suffering and even death.

In the end, God suffered, God died, God rose from the dead for us. In David's baptism, he received forgiveness, mercy, and died in Christ and rose from the dead.

David began to cry out again for his dad, so I excused myself and told dad that I was going to be going and get out of their way. I offered whatever help they might need. As I left...

(to be continued...)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Why? Where is God (contiuned from Aug 1)

(8 Year old boy with Cancer... Continued)

I waited at the edges again, getting out of the way of the parental "emergency pain team." David's mom was devastated. As moms do so well, she pressed forward, trying to read the label, finally submitting to some help from a friend to figure out dosage. How long ago was the last dosage... the doctor said something about more frequently - but she couldn't remember, the crying on the monitor was deafening, even thought it wasn't loud by decibel count.

Finally, mom and Hockey-mom had the relief potion prepared. Dad came to the kitchen, retrieved the small water-bottle style container (like you would use at the ice rink) and hustled it back to David. David's dad stayed in the back room. I took the opportunity to help grandma and Hockey-mom understand how great the hospice team is at controlling pain, especially break-through pain (pain in between the long term medicine that "breaks through").

Mom was too angry and her emotions were emaciated, starved to the point where she throws a look of, "Don't even try to comfort me." I stood once again at the edges of the family discussions. I decided it was time to go back and talk to David, if possible, but more importantly, David's father. The Lord worked things out wonderfully. I hovered at the door way of the bedroom. David, as expected, was pale, very thin, and whimpering in pain, but not as badly as he was before. Thank God for His gifts of medicine. It is often at times like this when the question is posed,"Where is God?" "Why?"

David's father sat on the bed along side his son. He was trying to comfort David. The medicine was beginning to work. Relief was making its way through Davids cancer riddled body. His dad looked at me with a puzzled expression that was filled with hurt and hopelessness. His son was settling down already and finally stopped crying was falling asleep. Dad got up from the bed and came to the hallway and said, "I just don't understand."

He continued, "I was raised to believe that everything happens for a reason and I still do believe it. But I just can't understand why my son has to go through this."

(to be continued)

He comes to us through means, the gifts of creation through doctors, pharmacists, etc., to care for pain.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

8 Year Old Boy with Cancer on Hospice: An Example Why Hospice is Not Giving Up



I received the phone call from a fellow hockey fan, I refer to her as "Hockey-mom." Hockey-mom tearfully said , "They're signing up for hospice. I think they need someone to help them understand that they are not giving up on their son. They also need some 'outside' the family spiritual help, but they're too hurt and angry to deal with it. Can you meet me at..."


For the last couple of weeks, I've been keeping track of young boy's life, a hockey player, who is struggling with cancer. I watched from the side lines over the last two years as David (not his real name) and his family went through the roller-coaster ride of fighting a cancerous demon desperate to eat away his body. The treatments went on and on, trying this and trying that.

I gladly attended fund-raiser hockey games with the St. Louis Blues "old-timers" to help with the cost of medical treatment. I could remember when he was still vibrant and, well, a 6 year old wound up boy. His teammates were always asking about him. His friends and family constantly tried to assist, but, what can you really do when a 6 yr. old boy has cancer?

His coached kept me informed of what was going on with David. A year ago, he he asked me if I would get involved as a friend, a lover of hockey, and someone who is Christian with hospice experience. Of course I would. Pastor's live for these opportunities to serve the Lord through the suffering.

The family decided this past Sunday that there would be no more transfusions, no more "treatment."

The Trip Westward into the Countryside

I jumped into my air-conditionless van on a hot and sweaty July Monday night and drove out an hour west of St. Louis. I met Hockey-mom at a gas station so she could guide me to their home. We drove another 20 minutes along isolated country roads, up and down hills, finally turning down a dirt and stone road.

Hockey-mom took me inside the house and the four beautiful Labrador Retrievers greeted me at the door. We walked through the door and I watched aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends. They wandered about, trying to be useful in various degrees of hurt, anger, hatred, tears, and dazed moments of confusion. At first, I couldn't figure out who was mom and dad and the older sister of David. So, I waited, observed, and prayed as I figured that someone would begin to wonder who this chubby stranger was standing at the edges of the downcast action.

Finally, as I later learned who she was, the aunt of David said "Hi." Ah, there was my "in" to start talking. So I began to introduce myself to people.

"Hi, I'm Mark Sell, I'm a friend of Hockey-mom and I've been following David's heroic struggle for the last couple of years. I told his coach (my neighbor and we attend the same church) that I'd be glad to help anyway I can." I explained to them my hospice background. Suddenly their eyes opened a bit wider and the quizzical expressions spread across their faces.

Just that morning, they decided to sign up for hospice. They were experiencing the common emotions facing a loved one who agrees to their family member's sign up to hospice. The guilt and anger about "giving up" was in the air, along with a bitterness toward hospice. As if they were thinking, "Those so and so people who will walk my son to his grave. How can we do such a thing? I don't want to give up!"

To shorten the story about the 2 hours I was at their home, here is a summary. I ended up having in-depth conversations about hospice and Christ with David's grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and friends of the family.


Then, as I was talking to David's mother, suddenly the baby monitor thundered and with a lightning strike effect with crying, moaning, and whimpering that lead up to David's cry, "Daaaaad!"

David was in his parents bedroom and everyone was by and around the kitchen. Once the painful sounds of the 8 year old boy pierced the soft toned discussions of the home, his dad jumped up and ran back to the bedroom. David's mom hustled over to the cupboard, grabbed the painkiller, and began mixing the potion that would relieve David of the "break-through" pain. The family stopped chewing their pizza. Everyone was tense as they sat back and watched (while trying not to stare) the "emergency pain team" go to work.

Of course, like everyone in hearing distance of the monitor, my heart was viciously ripped out of my chest and I couldn't stop thinking about my son and daughter. I couldn't bear hearing David's suffering so audibly ringing in every one's ears. AND, I'M NOT DAVID'S DAD!! I wanted to take his place. It is just against everything we experience that parents should bury their 8 year old.

After years of sitting, listening, and ministering to people suffering with many diseases and terminal illnesses, there is nothing like the suffering of a child and then to watch his parents emotionally destroyed by what they are hearing.

Suffering is the heart and soul of true Christianity. It is God Himself, who took on human nature, became a man to obey, suffer, and die. "Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." With so much hurt, emotion, confusion, and questions, this is what Christ brings to the moment. Christ brings the comfort and security of truth. We don't know the future, but the future is ours by faith in Christ. It is with this message in mind that I made my way back to the where David was with his dad.


(to be continued...)