Jeremiah is sleeping now…
He’s somewhere between our world and heaven.
When he sleeps he doesn’t feel his pain. His dry lips. His fatigue. His labored breathing.
He doesn’t feel his damaged nerve endings that make the gentlest of touches feel like a scratch or a droplet of lukewarm water feel like ice.
He doesn’t feel the pain of bandage changes or the need to bite his blanket to keep from moaning.
He doesn’t feel his rising temperature or the cold sweats. His shivering, his twitches, his blisters surrounding the tumor, his parched throat.
He doesn’t feel the stretching and tearing of his skin as the ulcerated tumor forces it’s way out of his chest and creates a second open wound.
He doesn’t feel nauseous from the stench of blood and the decaying flesh surrounding the tumor.
He doesn’t feel his momma’s tears on his cheek. His dad’s eyes, peering into him, searching for a miracle. Or his sisters fretful waiting outside his door, hoping he’ll be well enough for a visit.
He doesn’t feel his frustration over not being able to walk. His regret over the football season he’ll never play. Or his sorrow over the health and strength he’s lost.
Sleep is our friend now…
Even as it robs us of precious, fleeting time with him.
When sleep comes to Jeremiah it brings memories. Memories of running. Strength. Football. His older brothers. God.
Yesterday, in a moment of wakefulness, he told me he was praying in his dream. When he broke consciousness he found the prayers were still on his lips. He was praying for his dad. ????
As I write this, Jubilee is standing by her older brother’s bed. The room is dark. Quiet. We listen as another garbled prayer bubbles forth. We hear, “Do all this in My name.” His “Amen” is emphatic and strong, the way he answers, “Yes, sir” to his dad or shouts “ Let’s do this” on the field.
There are somethings I wish Jeremiah didn’t sleep through. Like visits from his friends. The special dinner his younger sisters’ made him that he was too tired to eat. The care his older sisters put into cleaning his room or massaging his feet. Nana, in housecoat and slippers, tiptoeing into his room to pray. The football team’s support. His best friend Jotham’s faithful visits to our home, just hoping for a chance to connect one more time.
Val’s midnight bed checks.
When Jeremiah is sleeping, he doesn’t see his little sister play her ukulele in the rain, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You never know, Jer, how much I love you. Please don’t take my Jeremiah away.”
When he’s sleeping, he doesn’t see the “pink flamingo” dance his three year old niece performs. As the family listened to Josh Malone’s sad song for Jeremiah, Lily twirled and dipped her stuffed animal. At the saddest part of the song, she raised the flamingo over her head and stared deeply into its yellow glass eyes. She couldn’t communicate her grief like the adults, but Lily danced her mourning.
Throughout Jeremiah’s fight, I’ve thought, “Surely he’s dying” only to see him strengthened by the hand of God.
I don’t know if God will take Jeremiah today, tomorrow, or in two thousand tomorrows.
But I know that he’s withdrawn from people, stopped eating, rarely communicates, and slips in and out of dreams and reality.
I know he’s bedridden now, without the strength or health to sit up in his wheelchair.
I know his organs are shutting down.
I know the tumor in his chest has begun to bleed again. The radiation he received while at Mclane’s Children’s Hospital was palliative care. It was to stop the bleeding long enough for Jeremiah to rest on hospice. The tumor decreased in size temporarily, only to expand outward and upward like a bloody glacier.
I know his pain is increasing. Whereas it was localized to the tumor sites in his back and chest, the pain now radiates throughout his body.
I know yesterday his bones ached so much we had to put his shins up on pillows, his feet on a blanket, his bottom on a cushion, and his back against a pillow.
I know his stomach is distended and his bellybutton is far off center, likely due to tumor growth pushing against organs.
I know another long bumpy growth, like alligator skin, can be felt down the right side of his back.
But I know there is comfort in the midst of sorrow and beauty in the midst of the ugliness of cancer.
I saw it last night.
Bald head pressed against bald head.
A hoarse whisper, “Jeremiah, I couldn’t be more proud of you, son. I love the man you’ve become.”
“It’s all because of you, dad.”
Then there was yesterday.
The tender voice of a boy as I changed blood-soaked bandages, “Mom you’re so pretty.” ???? ❤️
I also know Jeremiah’s body is broken but his faith is strong. Despite his pain, he tried to join in the family Bible study yesterday from his bed. When I went back in to read with him, I found him sleeping. His spirit was willing but his flesh was weak (Matthew 26:41).
I know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
I know death is the result of sin and Christ gave His life for Jeremiah. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
I know God is good. He’s promised, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s the promise that hangs above his sick bed.
Jeremiah’s hope is in Christ. His future is in Christ. Whether he lives or dies, Jeremiah is in Christ.
It’s the promise we cling to now.