Almost four years ago I wrote the last entry on this blog chronicling our adventure to Alaska. Have the adventures stopped? Not at all! Thinking back, there was not a big reason to stop writing after our incredible trip, except that real life needed some attention first. Returning home after three months away meant getting out of our RV home and all of its temporary holdings, resettling into our home that had been used by another family, reconnecting with family and friends, and resuming the “regular” life we have here at home. It meant catching up with our loved ones and learning of their struggles and hurts. It meant hearing more details about the arrival of triplet grandbabies for my sister. It was so many little things – things that just needed our full attention.
When people ask me how retirement is, I have difficulty summing it up. For us, retirement is an ever-changing way of life that includes some amazing travels and opportunities, but also the at-home, day-t0-day life that includes birthdays, church services and Bible studies, home repairs, illness and death, relocated adult daughters, walks at the dog park and occasionally, doing nothing. All of our adventures in retirement have not been excellent in the typical sense. But isn’t that the way life is? Good, bad and sometimes ugly!
Most recently an adventure that began 18 months ago came to an end. It wasn’t one we planned for with anticipation or that had previously been placed on our bucket list. It came like a storm in the night, stirring up everything that was firmly, safely planted, tossing it into the air, leaving us to wait for it all to land. When it did, the words “brain cancer” moved into our daily thoughts and vocabulary. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy became a part of everyday conversations. Everything that was previously on the agenda was pushed aside and each day’s focus was about the treatment that we prayed would bring healing.
Who was the patient? My older brother, Ray. Ray, the quiet but solid man who graciously led my two sisters, younger brother and me through our parents’ deaths. Ray, who was wise and hardworking. Ray, who was opinionated but kindhearted. Ray, who had recently remarried after the death of his first wife, and was enjoying a new chapter in his life. Ray, who loved spending time with his daughter and young grandson. Ray, my big brother.
I have to admit, Anaplastic Astrocytoma, Stage 3 brain cancer, sent me to my knees in a way almost nothing had before. As a young girl, I gave my heart to the Savior, and, for reasons I can’t explain, my life has had few challenges or disruptions that compare to those that many others have. This crisis challenged me to explore who God is, how great and powerful He is, and how much more love He has for me (and Ray) than I realized. Prayer partners around the country joined us in prayer that either the treatment or a miracle would heal Ray. But it didn’t turn out that way. Ray’s healing came when he passed into eternity, not here on earth. My head knows that God’s plan for Ray was perfect but my heart hurts. Each of our family members and friends mourns Ray’s passing and is forced to wrestle with the fact that it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Scripture tells me that I will understand when I reach eternity and if it doesn’t happen instantaneously, Jesus will be available for my questions. In the meantime, we are sad and we sometimes cry because we miss Ray. But God is still on the throne, still in control and still the Savior of my heart. God will accompany me on this crisis of faith and bring me to a place of peace and trust. That’s how this faith journey goes.
So, as you can see, our recent adventure was completely different from the exciting, excellent ways we have been spending our retirement, but I can assure you of this. These last months brought our close family even closer. We rallied together to offer support and assistance, however it was needed. We made sure Ray knew how important he was and how much we loved him. We celebrated holidays and birthdays with a new appreciation for each other. We hugged and said “I love you” more than we had in a long time. And in my thinking, that is quite excellent.