It wasn’t a particularly cold day but I think it was windy. I remember it being windy but that could be a subconscious addition to the scene based on the tornado that went sweeping through my insides. It could have been a still November day in West Texas, but I doubt it. I was in a foul mood, but it was independent of the funeral scheduled that day. I was out of sorts in all sorts of ways. I stood outside of the canopy that blocked the sun from the casket. I do remember now that it was because I was cold and the sun was warm, and I felt like hanging in the back anyway. Things drew to a close. I turned to leave. Something then recalled my attention to a seemingly insignificant statement that was thrown in by my father earlier, something said about leaving early while we were still deciding the riding arrangements from the church to the gravesite. “Dad. Why are you going with mom to her doctor’s appointment?” My black boots clicked as I balanced on a random strip of concrete and shifted my weight with my arms in the air, trying to move my legs more than my pencil skirt would allow. Why hadn’t I noted the oddity in that earlier? Why did I remember it now?
“I’m going to let your mother answer that.” he said and kept walking towards the car. I stopped walking on the curb that jutted out of the ugly dead grass to look up as he walked away. Adrenaline surged through my body like tiny knifes. Still frozen, I decided the only option was that she was either pregnant, or she was not. Everything in me hoped that meant she was pregnant.
“Mom, why is dad going to your doctor’s appointment with you?” The tornado picked up speed. She had a calm exterior. I sat in the back and tried to look up ‘Hysterectomy’ on my phone without being seen. I felt like the tornado left my body and picked up all of the words and the car and spun them around. All at once they all became very nonsensical and very threatening.
A series of events began to dismantle life as I knew it. For my family it began to unfold with my grandfather’s death and it created in me a fear of phone calls from my parents. My mother’s name would show up on my phone and my heart would beat with a suspicious pulse as she would introduce the conversation with the normal, “How are you?” To which my response eventually became, “First you tell me why you’re calling, then I’ll let you know how I’m doing.” I had received too many phone calls with painful information that seemed to pour from the earpiece. Misfortune became my expectation. It was an unfortunate development with no one to blame, but for the following months and even occasionally to this day, calls from my family I answered having already braced myself with the usual defense- ready to hear the worst.
That evening that I sat in my dimly lit apartment, I knew that I was going to get a phone call I just wasn’t sure what it was going to say. It’s fair to say that I developed a paranoia for the worst, but this was one time that human intuition was at work and not the effect of months of receiving a steady flow of bad news. I walked to my parents in the dark, bracing myself for something I wasn’t ready to hear.
Then it was my turn to make a call. I sat on the steps of the Administration building on campus waiting for my best friend to show up. I normally hang upside down from the steps and gaze as the cars drive by in the sky and the stars cover the ground. That night I didn’t have to hang upside down, the world was already spinning in circles. Everything was already on it’s head. She walked stiffly up the stairs as if she expected me to end our friendship because it was such a strange and tense request to meet me here. “Stef,” I managed to pull my eyes from the ground, “mom has cancer.“
New Years Eve- a holiday which I have never found great cause to celebrate. This last year I found even less motivation as we sat a few floors up from the ground in a dim hospital room. The only redeeming quality being it’s large glass windows that allowed for a view and lessened the feeling of suffocation the place caused. The only redeeming quality about the view being that it was dark and city lights are beautiful, no matter how ugly the city. A new year. There wasn’t anything waiting for me in an empty hotel room with a single view that faced the hospital where my mom slept, so I stood by her bed and played with her hair as she fell asleep. In the dark room, silent tears began to fall freely because there was no one around to see my fear. As I ran my fingers through her hair my mind was taken to the thought of the days ahead when it would all be gone and then just as wrenchingly I was taken back to the last time I was in a hospital room running my hands over my grandfather’s head, through thin wisps of hair. Between where we’d been and where we were going, a new year meant difficulties not yet faced, hardships not yet suffered, and the unknown. Happy New Year.
I spent the last days of this year in Colorado with very special people. People who represent what God is doing in my life after death and cancer and filmmaking and waiting and growing. The Lord is always working. I spent a good portion of the last year finding my footing on the path that God had for me which, in part, was trusting Him as I set out to do what I wasn’t really equipped to do. After it was over it was hard to imagine what He could possibly call me to do next. I could have at least anticipated that it would be out of my comfort zone and require me to do things I’m not really equipped to do… but in my fickle human nature I held out in hopes that it wouldn’t require quite as many growing pains to receive the growth He had planned. Silly me. I felt the Lord make plans for me to lead worship and there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t woken up with the question, “Are you sure?” already on my lips. But one night, sitting around with some guitars, some worship songs and the bit of discomfort that still follows me, we did what the Lord has called us to- that is, worship. We sang while a couple of strangers listened and the Lord said to me, “Yes, I’m sure.” Logan started playing the song Healer, a song that I sing lead, that’s really too high for me, that I’m pretty uncomfortable with, that I have a hard time not thinking I should just leave to Kari Jobe. I didn’t dare look but from where I was sitting I could see the couple who was listening from the corner of my eye and read enough of the woman’s body language to know she was crying. We didn’t sing to her, or say the name of Jesus to her, all we did was sing because the Lord has told us to sing. The next day we found out that the woman was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and the words “I believe you’re my healer” didn’t come to her from the insufficient people singing the song, they came from the one big enough to be a healer- and came to her through the insufficient people singing the song. It was hard not to break down and weep right there in the dining room as I realized that the Lord was doing it again. He was taking unequipped people and being so big that our small offering became enough. I don’t really feel that comfortable singing this song- surprise- but I just can’t really think of another song that would have summarized the Lord’s power and promises as a new year begins.
Happy New Year.