This blog is for all people who encounter cancer. It is written for my exceptional friend, Kevin, and especially for the radiant love of his life, Jennifer. Today she is undergoing highly invasive surgery. By the time she awakens she will have undergone a mastectomy and be well on her way to a long period of healing and treatment (according to her 4-27-18 FB post). This blog is long; as is, for some people, the prospect of fighting cancer.
The Soap Box Stand About Mean People (who really aren’t mean)
There’s this meme on social media that reads “The world is full of good people. If you can’t find one; be one.” There is another meme out there that’s funny. And if you’re a dyed in the wool southerner, as I am, rings true: “If you have friends who don’t think biscuits and gravy are a meal, get them out of your life. You don’t need that kind of negativity.” While that’s funny, there is a lesson to take to heart: get the negativity out of your life. It is short enough as it is.
We see it all the time. People putting in their two cents worth of advice and opinions where none is solicited…where, other than an outsider’s glimpse, there is no true understanding of other people’s interpersonal relationships and circumstances. At the expense of sounding like Forest Gump: “Mama used to say:” … you never know what goes on behind closed doors…especially when we see only a piece of the dynamic between and among other people.
We hear it all the time. Questions…really unwarranted opinions about other people’s lives, experiences and relationships: “Why doesn’t he stay with her? Why can’t he get over her? Wonder why we didn’t get invited? That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. God would want you to tell him.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have enough trouble managing my life let alone everyone else’s.
It’s easy to consider and see situations from our perspectives. Looking through our lenses at everyone else’s situation makes us:
- Pass judgment…something we all do…when this right is Biblically and exclusively God’s
- Tear people down…rather than investing in conversation and trying to build bridges…clearly and realistically this must work both ways. It takes a lot less energy to talk something out than to avoid, begrudge, and completely misunderstand.
- Assume a singular person’s story is correct and the only side of a situation. It happens in divorce & separation situations every time they occur …whether individuals behave maturely or not (sometimes people simply are not fulfilled). This is the element that makes people take sides in a couple’s breakup….taking sides for the victimized and talking trash about the vilified.
- Perpetuate misunderstanding and negative vibes among otherwise awesome people.
Relationships, friendships, marriages, and people: with all of them come drama…petty…hurtful stuff. People can be mean. I’m talking the kind of mean reserved for middle school girls bullying one another…or in contemporary terms…on social media. But, truthfully, it transpires as prevelantly among adults who know better. Otherwise nice, well-mannered people treat one another poorly. And then, on some random day of reckoning comes the time when you get a call or read a post that puts everything into perspective: death of a loved one, a best friend moves away, loss of a job, or possibly a dreaded diagnosis.
It is the disease that touches all of our lives; it does not discriminate. It doesn’t follow sexual proclivities, blood transfusions; gender, wealth, educational accomplishment, certainly not always genetics; and truly not necessarily our habits. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, how good of a person you have been…or whether you’ve been a complete jerk. Cancer is simply the multiplication of cell mutations in our bodies. Each of us is a walking Petrie dish full of organic material just waiting to go arry (now that we’re feeling all positive about life, keep reading).
We all know people it has impacted.
My sister, Robyn, and I grew up friends with the children of local Charlotte TV personality, C.J. Underwood. It has been years now, but cancer viciously attacked and claimed the live of Mrs. Underwood first before C.J. Fell to it later.
My sons’ Scout Master, Stephen Pace, an amazing friend and mentor to me, was diagnosed and taken from us in less than twelve months.
I’m working with a resident at work, literally destitute, who is fighting for her very existence waiting for Social Security-Disability to bring her some much needed financial peace of mind.
Kelly Keesling, from church, the wife of friend, continues to fight. This lady never smoked, yet was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She fights with the most vigor and best attitude…living her life fully in-spite of the crappy disease. Her story is a Divinely inspiring light to those who know her and many people who do not (I have her blog link at the end of this one).
Bertha Walker, one of the three people who introduced Thaedra and me making our blind date possible fought and survived a courageous battle against a brutal, physically life changing cancer struggle coupled with depression.
Another lady whom I deeply respect and adore, Pam Smith, from our church, fought and prevailed with exceptional faith. If there is an angel on Earth, Pam is the one…bringing comfort to those to whom she ministers.
A high school friend of mine, Dr. Chris Dula, now a professor at East Tennessee State, is fighting a brain tumor presently. Check out his prolific and inspiring story on YouTube.
Thaedra’s mama, Jean, was one of loveliest, kindest, sweetest of souls God ever made. She set the bar for serving & loving family and neighbor & church high, exceptionally high! Jean suffered a horrific year plus long fight with cancer that she lost the day after Thaedra turned 40.
About Jennifer & Kevin
That random day of reckoning came for one of my best buddies’ wife back in March. It was on a Friday when I received a call from a man l love dearly. He is one of my two very best buddies. It was during that call he revealed he would accompany his bride to the first of what turned out to be several needle biopsies. He probably doesn’t realize that I heard deep undertones of questioning uncertainty and “why her” that day.
Two days later on Sunday I sat with Kevin and Jen on their back porch and we all teared a little up as I listened to them talk about the unknown territory ahead. The only diversion was the focus Kevin, Tim and I had talking about a Fall trip we and our wives are planning to Europe.
Unlike me, Kevin is not a cryer. Just ask my kids. When the Hallmark Christmas movies come on I go all stupid. Do not even talk to me about “Holly Lodge.” I cannot even watch an episode of the Waltons without getting choked up. Seriously, if times are tough: John Boy is having writer’s block, Mary Ellen is getting picked on at school, Mr. Godsey’s store is facing inventory shrinkage, the cow is sick and Grandpa has had a heart attack…I can’t take it. I’d be the first one on the road to the Baldwin sisters’ house to raid their “recipe” to escape my sorrows. You gotta love two old spinsters who make moonshine during WWII. It would be bottoms up for me on Walton’s mountain…..CHEERS! (Sorry for the rabbit trail…back to Kevin & Jen).
Kevin is not a cryer. That particular Sunday afternoon I watched my buddy, for only the second time in our friendship, tear up. Out of utter love, compassion and wanting to take this thing away from his wife he sat there not knowing what to do. Men are problem solvers and fixers. We want to make things better. What I observed made me realize how deeply He loves his wife.
What I’ve always known about Kevin and Jennifer became more apparent that day. They have genuine, passionate, respectful and abiding love for each other….and he truly would do anything for his girl. Next year marks their 25th wedding anniversary. Their two children represent the very best of each of them. Their service to our church in youth ministry, missions, recreation, and trustees has been a place they have not only grown faith, but put it into action…even on days when people around them have made it tough.
I’m still rather certain most husbands, including Kevin (sorry, Kev), don’t know what to do in times like these. But I do know that their faith and love will be their guiding light.
The whole point of this blog is to ask for your prayers AND to remember two points:
First, We don’t know what we don’t know. We shouldn’t assume, we shouldn’t offer advice when we think we know what’s best for someone…and we probably do not. We are not God; and too often come across sounding that way. It’s that passing judgment thing…ouch!
Second, I love a meme from social media. I’ll simply include one at the end about kindness (a few lines down) that speaks an absolute truth: they are words to live by (yep…ended a sentence with a preposition for you grammar Nazis).
But, before these final words please let me covet your prayers for a couple of cancer fighters and their husbands: Kelly & Tim Keesling and Kevin & … today especially, Jennifer.
Jen, you ended your April 27th post with my favorite Bible verse. It’s probably the best life advice and mantra for anyone: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” (Prov. 3:4). As they say, whomever “they” are: “You got this.” As we discussed on your porch earlier this Spring, we can’t wait to hit the friendly skies this Fall and show you and Kevin the City of Lights. We’ve got to get Kev to drink some Bordeaux. That should be good for a smile! Here’s to the future, family, friends, and finding a cure! Cheers my dear friends–
“May the Lord bless you and keep you…”
Kelly Keesling’s blog link below: it is inspiring and very nicely written. Worth the read especially if you know someone someone living with cancer who needs encouragement. Kelly is a spot on testimony of positivity.