See Part 1 here.
See Part 2 here.
See Part 3 here.
See Part 4 here.
See Part 5 here.
See Part 6 here.
See Part 7 here.
See Part 8 here.
See Part 9 here.
See Part 10 here.
See Part 11 here.
See Part 12 here.
See Part 13 here.
See Part 14 here.
See Part 15 here.
See Part 16 here.
See Part 17 here.
See Part 18 here.
The Night Before the Appointment
The night before I left Yuma, I thought the plan was that mom would wait about a week to get her first of the new treatments. My dad had the long-awaited appointment with the carpet people the same Tuesday I was scheduled to fly out.
This was a bit sketchy as the appointment was set. I was there when my dad called to shift the appointment. In addition to the carpet issue, Dad wanted Mom’s body to have time to recover from the last emergency room visit (the same one which brought me to Yuma).
Both Dad and my sister received a text that pretty much said, “See you in a few days!”
Having thought everyone had already shifted the appointments, Dad called them back to get the plan finalized.
The next day, my sister, niece and nephew piled into the car and started the three-hour drive to Phoenix.
We made it about 45 minutes down the road when my phone rang.
“Matt, are you guys still in the area?”
I put my hand over the phone to tell my sister to pull off at the next exit. We turned around as I resumed my conversation.
“They don’t want her taking that high a dose of steroids for too long,” Dad said.
The appointment was moved back to the original date, right about the same time I was scheduled to fly home. Honestly, that was the least of my worries. Anything that might get my mom back on track to recovery was something I was a fan of.
I was still working to ease the tension between each member of my family, and now we were on our way to pick up mom. That happened without incident, and while there was a brief car-sickness battle, we made it to Phoenix.
I was exhausted, and I only drove one leg of the trip. We pulled in. My brother-in-law, whom we told to expect Mom when we went back to pick her up, got the house ready. I filled him in on how I felt.
If I were writing this as fiction, I’d do more to describe the tension. I even typed about 1,000 words. I simply felt those words insufficient to match the core of the issue. My family was exhausted. Some were afraid Mom had already had enough. Some were upset at how the previously mentioned people felt. The back and forth to Phoenix took a toll. The fear of this next round of treatment was high. The memory of that last hospital visit was too recent to move on from.
The relevant issue from my perspective was that I wanted to keep my family together, and I felt (and still feel) insufficient for the task. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
If I’m being honest, I say that verse two or three times a day, and to this point, I’m not able to observe any positive effect I’m having on my family. Please note, I’m not claiming the absence of an effect, I’m simply stating my human inability to see it. Present or not, I’m lost. I continue to pray that I figure out the right thing to say.
The problem is, I’m the most arrogant, superior, uncompromising member of my family. For a while in my somewhat younger days, I quite enjoyed flaunting my self-proclaimed superior intellect and standing in the family. I elevated myself above them by pointing out each of their shortcomings. Now, Matt the hypocrite wants everyone to appreciate what others do rather than what they don’t do or do wrongly.
Sons, don’t be arrogant with your siblings. Don’t mock them or insult them. Don’t drive them to anger or elevate yourself above them.
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
Oh how I wish someone had read that to me about twenty years ago. How much easier it would be for me to be an example now if I were a better example then. I wouldn’t wish this feeling of shame or helplessness on anyone.
I grew up wanting to be the best among everyone. I was prideful, and if I’m being honest, I’m still prideful. I’m just more ashamed of it than I used to be. I thought one should stand over his siblings and rivals.
I was an idiot.
My work spoke for itself. My love and grace could have said all I needed, but I insisted on this fatal, prideful flaw: I wanted credit.
Behold, I am like John, one of the sons of thunder. I act properly, but my heart is filled with pride and not respect. My heart is filled with ambition rather than humility.
To be less poetic, I am an idiot.
Now, in this time of stress and pain, I know the right thing to do. I’ve read the scripture and understood my path but though I walk it, those who knew me have no reason to hear or imitate my actions. My words of caution sound like words of ridicule. Words of peace sound like prideful, sycophantic pandering. Why shouldn’t it. I was self-righteous jerk for some twenty years.
I’d ask anyone reading this to think about how they treat their families. What example do you set? How do you show your love for your sibling? In what ways do you speak about them to others?
If you ever need to be the one to unify a family, are you the example they’ll need to follow?
I can’t change any of that, but I understand what a disadvantage I put myself in.
That night with Mom, all I knew to do was respect my new, favorite mantra. Listen! Be supportive.
Mom doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a schedule. She might be up till midnight and then up again at 2 a.m. as if she’d had eight hours of sleep. So my sister and I worked out a schedule. My brother needed to work, so he’d go to sleep so he could function. My sister would take the first shift, and I would get a few hours of shut eye (knowing I had an entire plane ride to catch up on sleep) and watch Mom from 2 a.m. until it was time to go to the appointment.
I did a bit of planning to get things in order for my return to Maryland. I slept a bit and then spent one last night with my mom. We watched true-crime television and slept off and on.
Just as I type this, I remember when I was young. I slept with my mom until a pretty embarrassing age. I wasn’t a teenager, but I might have been in the double digits. I’d have nightmares and crawl into bed. My mother has made me feel safe my whole life. When I felt lonely or ashamed, I’d lie on the couch and shove my head between her and the cushions of the couch. It was the act of being connected that made me feel safe.
Years later, I’m lay in bed to make sure my mother doesn’t hurt herself trying to go to the bathroom.
It’s like watching the “safe-place” you think about when you’re scared mutate into a nightmare.
Time passed, and mom got hungry. I made her some cereal, and I was pleased at how much she ate. These days, if Mom eats at all, it’s cause for celebration. I knew she’d want to get cleaned up, so I set up her stuff in the bathroom. Again, Mom needed help.
I still feel strongly that Mom, the woman who raised me, the matriarch of the family, and the shot caller and voice of authority, is in there somewhere. So as she prepared to shower, I found myself clumsily trying to balance ensuring her safety with allowing her what dignity I could to a woman who needed help getting in and out of the shower.
Morbidly, I thought of an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which the lead female character falls in the shower. “No adhesive ducks.” There weren’t any ducks in the tub. Don’t worry, she didn’t fall. The point is, I had to watch. The door was closed, and I glanced back and forth, looking down the whole way.
She finished, and I made sure she got dressed safely, and put a towel on the bottom of the tub to avoid non-duck-present-related injuries.
Of course, the thing I thought was body wash was, in fact, lotion.
I, am an idiot.
My sister informed me (without malice or insult) of my mistake, but there wasn’t much to do about it.
That was one night. One, stress-filled angst-ridden, humbling night. My sister did this for three weeks. My father did it for another four (my math might be off, but I think that’s about right).
This is why I stand behind the belief that anyone who’s done anything to help my mother is a blessing worthy of thanks to God. I remember three bathroom visits, two meals, and the aforementioned shower. After one night, I found myself in awe of the strength God gave those who’ve been doing this since it began.
The Bible says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12.
I’d also like to point out the irony of a passage of the Bible pointing out how I’ll be humbled being in the very book of the Bible after which I was named.
This is me humbled. This is me laid low.
One thing I was excited about was that I’d get to at least see my mom start treatment and maybe even talk to a member of the cancer team.
Questions and Revelations
Why did I feel the need to exalt myself when I was younger?
If you’re asking for the justification, it was because I was a sad, lonely teenager who was afraid he was doomed to become the monster his forefathers were. I craved nothing more than to prove, with my every action, that I was the good son. Hilariously, I never was. I was a thief. I was a liar. Even when I stopped stealing and lying with every other breath (oh, that must have been around age 15) I jumped straight to arrogance and self-righteousness. I cared more about how I looked than what I did. My heart was filled with the desire to validate my feelings and my self-image, rather than to submit to God and live as Jesus taught me to live.
Why? Because I’d been taught that I can’t trust anyone who talks about Jesus. I was raised to believe Jesus as nothing more than the stick people used to beat you into submission with or threaten you with damnation. I wasn’t armed with the tools necessary to defend myself. I didn’t learn about the Armor of the Spirt until perhaps a month ago (literally).
I didn’t read the Bible. Even when I started reading the Bible, no one encouraged me. I just got tired of wondering what the truth was, so I went straight to the source. I’m telling anyone who wants to listen; that did more for me than a hundred people talking. By that time, I didn’t trust anyone. Men talking about a book other men had transcribed from thousands of other men more than 2,000 years ago.
The temptation was to refuse the Bible in its entirety because I, who’d only read a few chapters, maybe a book, here or there, couldn’t explain parts of it. Since I’ve actually read it, I feel differently.
A note on reporting. One must always know the source of their information. The following source, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry’s website, is, of course, a Christian site.
It says the translations of the Bible are 99.5% accurate. This is four percent more accurate than the Iliad, a book written at about 400 B.C.
Non-believers can throw other articles that refute this (I found a Newsweek article that did just that.)
So how about a bit of evidence from a third, independent source. Here I found an article from Independent, a British news website. According to Media Bias/Fact Check’s website, they lean left, but the information is “generally trustworthy for information.”
The key fact in that Independent article is that a 2,000-year-old scroll, the oldest biblical text ever found, had been digitally opened and read. The text from that scroll “is 100 percent identical to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries.”
Here’s another article from National Geographic’s website about the same scroll that at least corroborates with the above statement. In 15 years of journalism, if you can get three independent sources to say the same thing, you can trust that information.
This tells me at the very least the Bible was translated accurately. People can debate the “reality” of the events, but I don’t think there’s any legitimate, scientific evidence to support an argument that the translations themselves are not accurate. This is not related to altered Bibles for branch religions. Neither is that what this particular statement is about.
This all leads me to my point. Accurate or not, I had no foundation of how to act as a member of a family. Being shown the Lord’s Supper or the book of Matthew or Mark would have at least given me some sort of anchor. I can’t say I would have listened or not, but I can say I wish I’d have had the chance.
If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog. I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.
Thanks for reading