I swam slowly to the surface around 6am, aware of the gradual ascent from total unconsciousness to the light… like watching a film of a diver rising from the seabed toward the sky. Strange feeling: I definitely didn’t want to be awake. It must have been the internal workers – the ones you see in the cartoons – the ‘little men’ of imagination who run our bodies: the ones in charge of bladder function sent out a ‘mayday’ to the ones in my sleep centre, demanding instant over-ride ‘before she blows!’ 😉 I hate that.
Seriously, I could not wake up today and had to go straight back to duvet’s arms for several hours more – cancel my plans and rest up. It’s not surprising when you look at what’s gone on this week, the exposure of our lives and hearts on national TV, the concern over Sam even being well enough to travel up to London on the train, despite his insistence on going… we’re bound to pay a price. The many messages of support and congratulation, emails offering advice, the sense of accomplishment and a job well done – and yet the weight of knowing none of this has changed a thing.
In fact the wonderfully manicured BBC piece and the conversational, sympathetic ITV slot this week (which are both now on You Tube if you click those links), showing as they did the surface of our story while only having time to hint at the struggles behind the scenes, have really just served to confront us with the inescapable reality of our situation once again. When Sam is out of sight sometimes it’s all ‘out of mind’ – I am so grateful and relieved he left the family home in June. But to hear the last 20 months clearly summarised and see him bravely talking about his choices, brings the diagnosis and prognosis home afresh.
We’ve come so far, but – again in cartoon language, or perhaps just picture a silent film – we are running on the spot while our braces are caught in machinery behind us… Smile… but weep with us as well. How can anyone escape what is inside their own head – “this ridiculous thing” he called it!? The cancerous tumour is interwoven, part of Sam’s brain, and cannot be excised anymore than Sam could be removed from our hearts and lives. And here he is, telling the audience of his hopes – as he has many times told us. We can recall the agony of making those decisions, the high cost to our consciences, comfort and his wallet – but most of all the sheer, cold, ineluctable fact that without a miracle, a death sentence hangs over our son’s life. This flashy publicity and undoubtedly sincere sympathy change nothing; the presentation of the sorry tale with it’s clashes with orthodoxy and flirtation with the law that have provoked so much interest just doesn’t do anything to HELP us.
Perhaps it will. Perhaps it will help Sam if people listen and take up his call, or even fund research – at least let the message go further to the science labs and the plea be heard in the corridors of power. There could be something in it! Has anyone got the nerve and political will to find out? But it still doesn’t help our sadness and mourning for what is lost; it doesn’t help our weariness and strain at living with our lot. Anyone on a ‘journey with cancer’ knows the uncertainty and fear – unable to plan ahead or lose that sense of carrying a load. One day at a time is the only way – and seeing those films of my belovèd boys has just made the next few days heartbreaking ones, with his father often bursting into tears at the enormity of it all 😦
BUT. We have found a way to cope. Yes! drink and drugs – of course! 😉 But more than human comforts, we can run back into the refuge and safety of the love and eternal purposes of God. ‘From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe’ Psalm 61v2-3 and ‘You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance’ Psalm 32v7. The promises of Scripture prove true, balm to our battered hearts, hope of a life that carries on beyond the grave and the love that is as strong as death.
And having found some peace again, another thing… a sense of deeper meaning in all this. We have been quite surprised that rather than a medical debate the message that has been most clearly portrayed in both these films is of the grace and mutual respect between father and son. This seems such a prophetic sign – especially as their relationship has not been at all easy over many years. As one friend texted me today “it is a powerful symbol, expressing the truth of the Malachi promise” that is Malachi 4v6: ‘He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers’.
Two other friends sent similar email tributes – one to each of us – which represent what many others said they also saw. Indeed if this message is really getting out to thousands and strangers have found themselves moved to tears as they watched – for so we have been told – we count ourselves privileged to be the messengers. I’ll give our friends the final words:
‘…in the whole thing that comes over about father/son/loving family relationship in both the clips of Sam and Martin I felt, as you did, that it was to do with reclaiming something that has been so lost in this land of ours, the importance of family. And in both clips the presenters comment on it.
Also felt what is said by Martin and in your blog is so God, that we may not like what our children do but we will support them. How often as Christians do we want our children to do good things, the right thing, and they know there is conditional love and so strive to do well with God because they see His love as conditional too. So love what you and Martin show and am learning daily from it’
I just wanted to say that I think what you are doing for Sam is amazing. I don’t know if he tells you often enough but in the interviews you could just see that he is very proud to have his family behind him supporting him in everything he needs, even if you don’t necessarily agree with him on everything. That’s the sort of father I would like to be for my kid, and I know it can’t be easy, specially in tough situations like this. But it is in these time that you see the true nature of people and you guys are a great family, really.