Monday, May 19, 2014

Reflection of an Orphan, 15 years later

This year it will be 15 years since my parents went to be with Jesus.  I was 22 at the time, I was engaged to my beautiful wife (we will be married 14 years this year).  That doesn't really make me much of an orphan I guess, since I was an adult an about to be married.  No one really is prepared to lose both parents at 22.  If you don't know the back story, let me fill you in.  My mother was diagnosed with a sarcoma that enveloped her hamstring.  They removed her hamstring and sciatic nerve along with the tumor.  The tumor was malignant and spread into her lungs which eventually took her life.  My dad was diagnosed with adeno-carcinoma in his kidney, seven months after my mom was diagnosed.  His went into his spine and through his bone system, but the tumor in his kidney eventually caused him to bleed to death.  My mom died the end of August, my dad the beginning of September, 13 days apart from one another.  It was a traumatic time to say the least.

You learn a few things when you watch your parents be eaten alive from the inside from cancer.  You learn that you don't want cancer.  You learn that stress is contagious, and that often it is passed between family members.  You learn that peace is also contagious, that it can be passed between people and family members.  You learn that not all people suffer the same way.  You learn that things like cancer and death are hard for your friends to deal with because they have no idea what to say.  You learn that God will bring you through anything, but you also learn that when people tell you things like "God won't give you more than you can handle" that they have no idea what they are talking about (and that's not a Bible verse.  The verse says you won't be tempted beyond what is common to man).

I wasn't ready for my parents to die, but the cancer didn't really ask my opinion.  I had said that I don't know if I could be able to handle it when my dad died, he and I were very close.  It was beyond hard to watch the cancer take his strength and turn him into someone who didn't even have enough strength to put his glasses on or to speak clearly.  Fifteen years later, thinking about the events that happened and seeing my dad that way, I still feel like my heart is crushed.  My dad outlived his diagnoses by months, and he continued to hang on.  I traveled home from college to tell him it was ok to die.  He died three days later.

Looking back on those days and what I went through, it was a blur and I know how emotionally numb I was.  It was painful and now the pain continues in new ways.  My dad's name was Jeffery Lee.  My real name is Jeffery Daniel.  My oldest son is Jeffery Collin (we go by our middle names).  Collin often asks me about the man he shares a name with, and I wish so much that he could know him.  Collin and his grandpa would have been great buddies, they would have really had a great relationship.  I am sad my mom will never be able to spend time with my wife and her grand daughter.  These days, that hurts the most, that my kids will not know my parents this side of eternity.

I think one of the most important lessons that I learned is how God provides.  My parents are gone, but I have never lacked having people in my life that filled in for them in different ways.  I always have older men and women there who care about me and who help and encourage me.  God gives us a family through adoption in Christ, and it goes way beyond the local church.  It's so much more powerful than that.  There are people all over the US that have loved me and encouraged me and been there when I needed them.  My parents were not there for my wedding, for the birth of my kids, when I graduated seminary, when I was ordained, and they have missed the struggles and battles too.  My parents couldn't be there, but I have never once been alone.

The church has been commanded to take care of widows and orphans.  Now, orphans are kids who are not able to take care or provide for themselves, so I am not really an orphan.  I was 22, I was an adult, I lived on my own, paid my own bills and provided for myself.  Never the less, I wasn't ready to be on my own completely, and I never was.  I never have been abandoned, I have always had people to give me guidance and support.  God has provided for me through His people, and I know God's love for me because His people have shown it too me.  I am so thankful for that.

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