Agony in the Garden: How I Spent Holy Thursday

"Bruley chapelle du Rosaire Gethsémani" by Utilisateur:Djampa - User:Djampa - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.
Bruley chapelle du Rosaire Gethsémani” by Utilisateur:DjampaUser:DjampaOwn work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, Hubs had his 30-month/30,000-mile checkup at the cancer center.

That’s always a tense time. The doctor he was supposed to see had already rescheduled the appointment once, so we’d spent an extra two weeks wondering whether Hubs still gets to consider himself “healthy.”

The cancer center is an awful place. Don’t get me wrong; they give terrific care. But from the second you pull off that busy Philadelphia street onto the winding, tree-lined driveway, you enter into that world of clenching dread. It’s impossible not to. Every person, every family, in the place is dealing with their own personal hell.

A cancer center on any day of the week presents many, many versions of agony in the garden. On Holy Thursday, that was all I could think about.

As we sat in the waiting room of the imaging center (watching Rachael Ray wave around “chicken cutlets” of the non-edible variety and wondering why she didn’t just stick to cooking on her show) someone called our name. Someone we knew. Someone whose husband has been battling a very aggressive cancer for nearly two years now. Someone whose husband is in great pain.

We moved to stand near them in another part of the waiting area where there was room for his wheelchair. We hugged them, and listened, and all talked about our kids (because that’s what parents do) and waited together until Hubs’ CT scan was done and we had to go downstairs to see his doctor and get the results.

In the next waiting area, more agony. A family sitting together in a corner–husband, wife and adult daughter, chatting quietly in another language while an elderly man sat nearby and struck up a conversation with them. Turns out, they’d gotten good news that day. He shared that his wife wasn’t going to be able to beat this, that she wouldn’t even let him in to see the doctor with her.

And then he rejoiced with them–total strangers–on hearing their good news.

How much grace does it take to be able to do that?

I was practically in tears, in the waiting room, overhearing this.

We finally saw Hubs’ doctor. He got his all-clear for the next six months.

I am grateful. I am relieved.

But it’s hard to celebrate Hubs’ good news when so many of the people we saw there that day would not be receiving a similar prognosis. It’s hard to rejoice when someone we know is in pain.

Father, if you will it, let this cup pass away…

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7 thoughts on “Agony in the Garden: How I Spent Holy Thursday

  1. I spent a Holy Thursday in vigil, which ended in terrible news, so I’m in even more awe. Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection!

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    • Thank you, Michelle. I remember reading about your Holy Thursday experience from a while back. Prayers are with you!

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  2. Barb, every time we take our sweet Sarah to the children’s hospital, we meet families who have kids with terminal cancer. They always, always humble us with their peaceful outlook, their joy, the grace-filled conversations we have with them, and the beauty of redemptive suffering that they exude. Experiences like yours here are ones we somehow incorporate into our daily lives, because we never, ever forget them. They leave an indelible print on our hearts. HUGS to you and your “hubs!”

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