One day, many years ago, my husband came home from work much earlier than usual. He normally worked long days. But during this particular season, he battled cancer. Major surgery and then radiation treatments temporarily changed the structure of his work life.
I watched my big, strong husband grow tired, shaky, and weak. He insisted working a few hours each day prior to his treatments. He admitted later that he never accomplished much during that time.
Kevin walked in the door, set down his computer bag, and took a few slow steps to the kitchen. He didn’t look well at all.
My 6’3” husband raked his fingers through his hair and leaned on the counter for support. He looked down at his feet and then back up at me. His eyes welled up with tears. He shook his head like he had something to say but couldn’t find the words. I swallowed hard and waited for him to continue.
He finally spoke. “What are we doing? What am I doing?”
My words caught in my throat, “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been running so hard for so long, I didn’t think I had another speed or gear. But this radiation has slowed me way down. I barely have the strength to get through the day.
“And something odd happened on my commute home today. Traffic came to a complete stop on the highway entrance ramp. Cars lined up and people honked their horns at a lone car that stood still at the bottom of the ramp.
“People swerved around the stopped-driver, honked at him, shook fists at him, exasperated at how he’d inconvenienced them. I know I wouldn’t have made a rude gesture, but, on a normal healthy day, it would have bothered me that this man slowed me down and interrupted my pace.
“But today, I had no strength. So I waited my turn. And when I got down next to the stopped-driver, I paused another moment to see if he was okay.”
In almost 30 years of marriage, I’ve seen my husband cry only a handful of times. At that moment in the kitchen, he struggled to find his words as he choked back his tears.
With my eyes fixed on him, I pulled myself up and sat on the kitchen counter. And held my breath. I didn’t want to miss a word he had to say.
He went on,
“The man at the bottom of the entrance ramp . . . he stopped there because he couldn’t breathe. He’s one of my radiation buddies. A sweet old man, he’s battling lung cancer. He doesn’t have much time to live.”
He sucked in a sob and continued,
“He stopped traffic and inconvenienced all of those people because of a coughing fit. He was simply struggling to catch his breath.”
I put my hand over my mouth because I didn’t know what to say.
Kevin’s lips quivered as he blinked back more tears,
“What on earth have I been doing by working all of these hours? And why do I think my time is more important than anyone else’s? How have I missed the blessing of this life God has given me?
“I’m going to survive this cancer, but who of us really knows how many days or hours we have left on this earth? Our time has to count. I have a beautiful wife and three sons at home who need me.”
He stepped toward me, wrapped his arms around my waist, and pulled me close. I wrapped my arms around him. We pressed our faces together and wept.
That memory will forever be etched in our hearts as one of the most sacred moments of our lives. There in that place of sickness, fatigue, and eye-opening wonder, the veil between heaven and earth seemed especially thin.
*Adapted from Susie’s book, Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Joy.
Susie Larson has spoken to thousands of women locally, nationally, and internationally. She’s the author of 12 books and many articles. She’s the host of Live the Promise – a talk show heard daily right here on the Faith Radio Network.
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