Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Little Did I Know


Last year around this time, I took the kids to a function my church was attending. Little did I know at the time the significance that simple event would come to have on our lives.

Our church was promoting an event they participated in annually. We were encouraged to attend to support our community, our church, and to use it as an outreach and offer prayer to anyone who may be in need at the event. I am not sure if that is why I actually went. I remember distinctly debating whether or not to go. Chris wanted to stay home and work on a project, the kids wanted to see their friends who would be there, and to be perfectly honest I wanted to see mine. So while dad worked on his project, off we went. I did not ponder the depths of the event deeply nor did I consider the range of emotions that many people at the event may have been experiencing. Little did I know I would soon become one of those people who I never took the time to consider.

The event was the annual Relay for Life Cancer walk. These walks take place all over the nation annually to raise awareness and support for cancer research and survival. I had never attended a cancer walk or event prior to this night so this was my first exposure to something like this. It wasn't that I did not know people or have any loved ones who had experienced cancer. I did. My close friend in Virginia is a breast cancer survivor as well as my aunt. And I had recently come to know and care for a special young mom who had a double mastectomy a few months before.

Regardless of my involvement with these women, there was still that degree of separation between what I knew to be true and my own experience. You know that separation in our brains that says 'it will never happen to us' when we see or hear about a tragedy. I used to think it was a built in defense mechanism that protects us from having to emotionally experience everything around us. Now I think it is a deep lack of empathy and ignorance that keeps us from powerfully coming along side others in their time of need.

I do not think everyone has this flaw. Actually, I know everyone doesn't. They are the people we hear about that learn about a tragedy, and go beyond thinking 'how awful', to actually doing something to meet the person's need. They are the ones that stand in the heat and hand out water bottles to hurricane victims even though they have never experienced one themselves. They are the ones who volunteer at the hospital who have never suffered severe illness or tragedy themselves. They are the people I have met through this blog who went beyond thinking 'how tragic for them' and instead came along side us in a deep emotional and providential way. They are the ones who make a tangible difference in people's lives who are suffering.

I, unfortunately, had this flaw that allowed that degree of separation that I thought protected my heart, but really just left me blind and ineffective to how God wanted use me as His instrument or grace in others lives. And I have met them too. They are the ones who cannot talk to me about CJ. They are the ones who say, I do not read the blog because it is too sad. They are the ones, like me, who could cry at a powerful movie that was not real, but walk around a cancer event unaffected by reality. Little did I know God was about to change all that.

During a time of remembrance at the walk, I thought about those three women I knew, and was grateful for their progress and victory in their battle against breast cancer. I remember thinking of them as I walked around the candle lit sand bags displaying people's names and promising myself I would buy a luminary in their honor the next year. Little did I know I would be purchasing one with my own son's name on it.

Even though there were those brief moments of remembering those I knew, I mostly watched the kids play and visited with my friends. I remember keeping a close eye on CJ because, by this time, he had already begun to suffer with pain in his back and stomach. I specifically remember watching him walk around the illuminated sand bags while chatting with his friends. I myself walked around these bags unaware of the deep significance each one held in someones life.

Ashamedly, I was more aware of what I considered to be bad taste in music being played and bad taste in costumes worn by some of the dancers that were present than I was of why the gentleman with three young girls were kneeling in front of a bag for an extended period of time. I did not pay much attention to the others at the walk or wonder what brought them there. I did not wonder how cancer touched their lives personally. I did not wonder why God brought me to a cancer relay or how He may want to use me in the many hurting lives all around me. Don't get me wrong, I prayed for those around me that night. But unfortunately, I can't say I felt for those around me that night. Therein lays the huge degree of separation. Little did I know that degree of separation was about to close dramatically.

CJ's diagnosis, four months later, was a whirlwind of emotions and confusion. But within that whirlwind there are a few poignant moments that are etched in my brain and on my heart forever. One of those moments took place about a week after CJ's diagnosis of Stage 3 Lymphoma. I was walking in the hallway on my way to CJ's hospital room and passed a poster that said "Relay for Life Cancer Walk" when I froze. It suddenly hit me with breathtaking emotions that we had attended that cancer walk completely ignorant to the fact that CJ would have had cancer in his little body at the time. I remember stopping and staring at the poster as if it were a movie screen replaying scenes from the walk. I saw us walking around bags lit in honor of survivors and of those who lost their battle. The significance of those bags suddenly changed right there in that moment in my heart. I saw the faces of those I did not really look at or reach out to at the walk. I saw the dad kneeling by the illuminated bag. I saw people with tears of grief and tears of joy. I remember standing there in front of the poster with my heart pounding and realizing for the first time, "God, You knew! You already knew it then. Oh my, the implications. Forgive me. Examine me. Teach me." And He has!

"Test me O Lord and try me, examine my heart and mind;
for your love is ever before me and I walk continually in your truth."
(Psalm 26: 2-3)

This Friday, I will once again attend that Relay for Life with CJ. I am not prepared for the wide range of emotions I will experience but I welcome them regardless. I can tell you that I will not be focused on what type of music is playing or what type of attire the performers wear. I will not be there to see my friends or watch the kids play. I will be the mom in tears, kneeling in front of an illuminated sand bag that says, "CJ, never, never, never, give up. (Philippians 4:13) Love, Mom and Dad."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives,
so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
(2 Cor 1:3-5)



CJ's Relay for Life Web Page can be found by copying and pasting the following address into your URL:

http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY09FL?px=10779102&pg=personal&fr_id=13459

Relay for Life, Miami Lakes Optimist.
Friday, May 8, 2009

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,As always my thoughts and prayers are with all of you all of the time. What a beautiful picture of CJ I love it!! I understand , I attended alot of events for cancer and only focused on Pat at the time, and there were so many others that were suffering and hurting. I guess we all learn as we go, Thanks for your thoughts. Stay strong!! Love you always Pam

Anonymous said...

Never give up Cj!
Your friend,
Andrea

Anonymous said...

Dawn, I think God has graced some people with the gift of compassion and empathy. In my case, I am learning it from God's word and Jesus' example. I have also learned it as God carried me through my own fiery trials.
God has also brought people into my life who, in different ways, are an example of Jesus to me and challenge me to live a life that bears good fruit...and you are one of them, my friend.
Most important, it's His word that changes me.
I want to be more like Him: compassionate and gracious, loving and slow to anger. Psalm 86:15
I want my life to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
It is only through His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that this is possible.

James 3:13
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."
This verse refers not to the wisdom of the world but...
James 3:17
..."the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."

This wisdom is only found in God's word. It's His word that changes us.

Poppa Jerry said...

Hello my loves,
You know Dawn, walking isn't my best sport, but I'll be there with you and CJ and the rest of our family to support any effort which helps to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer.\Love you, Poppa

Anonymous said...

Dawn and Chris,
Please know our hearts and tears will be with you tomorrow while you are praying around CJ's light. We are prayingm,too! We love you!! Aunt Karen

mefea said...

Dawn,

Relay for Life has always been a very emotional night for me as cancer has greatly affected both sides of my family. But I can say that it wasn't till this year that I have better understood and felt what cancer really means. I know that this will be an emotional night for many of us and now more than ever I'm thankful for the opportunity to be able to attend and support this event...

CJ! I can't wait to walk around that track with you. You are SUCH a strong boy and you inspire so many, may this Friday night be no different!

I pray that all of us look out from ourselves to see who God has for us to reach out to, bless, pray for, cry with, and support that evening.

looking forward to it
~Melinda

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,

Our thoughts and prayers will be with you today as you walk the relay. I know it will be a truly emotional time for you, as you won't just be feeling for Cj's but all the others around you too. I have lite a candle at home and will keep it on all day in honour of CJ and everyone else.

Love,

Nicole Ana and Alberto

Anonymous said...

Dearest Dawnie and little ones...when can I bring a giant pizza over? I surely miss you. Yes Dawnie...life is different when you are walking the relay for life and it has a new meaning, or sitting on the other side of the bed but....God teaches us as we go through life...it's a never ending process and one that we are all blessed with.

Love you lots and lots,
Aunt Penny
xoxoxox

Enzo said...

Yes Dawn, little did you know. Little did any of us know. I keep trying to think back before September last year of what was going on, what consumed my prayers mostly, how I didn't want to watch the St Jude's programs because I couldn't bare to watch the sick children. I remember that first walk we went on when CJ was first diagnosed, not understanding the ballons, the posters of children that didn't survive, meeting people from Joe DiMaggio's. But I also remember as you said many people that already knew they should be there, support this event and like you feel ashamed that I was never one of them. I do know though that CJ was always, always one of them. Always wanted to feed the homeless, sing caroles to the homebound, send shoe boxes to the children in other countries, give his money to buy something for someone else. Always. Amazing how he already was ahead of the curve on all of us. That is probably why he is such a good receiver of people that support him. In his little heart that is how everyone should be and how he is. I still keep thinking of the turn out he had at his birthday, of all the prayer warriers that he has. He is like that commercial of the guy witht he cell phone and turns around and there is an army behind him of support. That is how it is for CJ. I don't even know the amount of people that showed up for this little guy. God bless the walk tonight, bless the CJ's that are sick, bless those that are walking around like CJ last year not knowing they would be sick and bless those souls that are there because that is where God and their hearts lead them to be.

Grandma

Ily said...

Hi George Family,
We are so happy that you guys will attend this function. I know the Lord will continue to use you guys. You have been an awesome inspiration to me and my family. We love you and are always here for you guys.
The FIgueroa's

Ily Figueroa said...

Hi Cj,
Have you written any new poems lately? What are you up to now, what is your favorite thing to do these days? Any new, fun x box games. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Tell mom and dad to bring you over for a swim...the pool is nice and warm now.
Love ya,
Mrs. Ily

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's day to one of the best mommies I know, Dawn. I've seen you with your children and I can see the fruit of your heart in them.

Amy Derrickson said...

Hi Dawn,
I love reading your stories and having my heart melted by your wisdom and discernment. I wish I had done more to help you while we were living down there. That is my problem: my heart feels the pain, and the empathy is there, but my follow-up through action is often lacking.
Know that we are still praying for CJ and your whole family.
Lots of love,
Amy

Anonymous said...

Hey CJ and Family. I just wanted you to know that we think of you often and pray for you daily, I hope your feeling better and will get to enjoy your fishing trip soon. We also hope that you are getting to spend some quality time with the family playing the games that we bought you. CJ please do not ever forget how much you are loved by your Friends & Family and the supporters around the world. You are an incredible child and we hope to see you again soon,And you brighten my day everytime I log into your page and I see that amazing and beautiful smile that you share. This is Jackie, Tony & Savannh. We hope you are well and we wish you all the best

Anonymous said...

As I was preparing to work this morning I took a glance at the sky and was totally humbled by the master piece before me. The sun was coming up behind clouds and the sky was streaked in hues of pink. From east to west it was a magnificent show of Gods handy work.As i stared at the sight I justkept saying over and over Thank you Father for this beautiful sight,and I thought I am delighting in the Lord right now, is he delighting in the knowledge that his children are in awe of his gift this morning. I believe he gives us these gifts to show his love for us and to show his sovereignty over the heavens. Also he lets us know he is still sovereign over our lives, he loves us and if he can make the heavens and earth so beautiful with just a word imagine what he is doing in our lives.I know I rambled just a bit but I felt the Lords loving presence this morning in the earths perfected glory and I haven't been able to forget. He is truly truly an awesome loving one and only God! His wisdom and grace are are with all of you George family, you see it all around you.>>>>Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.>>>>> Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.>>>>

Denise said...

CJ, Dawn and family, I don't know all the fullness of the Lord's purpose in the trials that He's placed in your paths. But as I listen and watch in wonder, your lives continue to be an ever blooming fragrance to Him... and to us. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Know that you are being lifted up in prayer throughout the day to our Father who delights in works of mercy and compassion. Denise

Sonia said...

Hi Cj,Dawn and family. I hope that every thing is OK with you and that the new fase you are on, is doing well for CJ. Is strange not knowing from you this last days. If you can, write a litle note updating in how is every thing with CJ. We keep on thinking a lot on you, wishing and praying for the best. Love,
Sonia, Antonio, Ale y Andrea

Martha Rivero said...

Dear Dawn and CJ and Family,

It has been a long time since I don’t comment in the blog, I have been through so much, so many trials all together at once, that sometimes would let me to cry on my knees to the Lord, and ask him how long more, what else should it happen? But I want you to know that the Lord answered me, and he told it was over, he gave me back everything in doubles, I can now rejoice and say that I trust him, and I stand firm in all his promises, because they are eternal. I read this post, and I got emotional because my mom is a breast cancer survivor, my dad is cancer survivor, and my nephew is too, and I have never attended, and I can see my self described in your words as one of those people that have been through the same valley, but does not take the time to attend to one of this events, and then it hit me too how far am I to be a grace instrument in Gods hands.

Dawn, I haven’t forget about you guys, I always pray for your family, especially for CJ, you are like a part of my family and my life. Your words and advices had helped me a lot in my experience and trials. Thank you for that wonderful post and update.

With love,

Martha

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for such an openly honest blog that gives all of us such an insight into your daily struggles, fears and joy. All of us readers who have not walked in the shoes of cancer patients or family members like you, can in any way truly understand. That is why your gift of writing and the grace GOD has given you to follow through with the blog is immensely important to so many, those who walk in your shoes and those who don't. Psalm 45:2 You are the most excellent of men(women), and your lips have been anointed with grace, since GOD has blessed you forever.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>. Yes Dawn you have been blessed with GODS anointing grace and we are the benefactor's of his gift as well. I pray for all of you and lift my prayers to the throne of our Father and Saviour Jesus. Thank you again for your open hearted blogs. To GOD be the glory.>>>>>