August 2011 my youngest son was diagnosed with bone cancer. So began a journey into another world.
Upon arriving home from work, his mother and I stood in the large master bath of our home with the door closed trying to digest what was happening. I’ll always remember stepping to the mirror and looking into my reddened eyes. There stood a pitiable creature. There stood a man powerless to protect his family. There stood a man unable to be a man. Then I told the tear-stained face, “The fight begins here.” We held each other for a few moments then parted. Each had to gird for battle in their own way.
The next year was a blur of hospital rooms and “IV s”. Our son wasted away before our eyes as we ministered to him as best we could. We were at war with an enemy that would not come out and face us. It lived in him, a parasite on our lives destroying its “host of innocence.” The “pump of paradox” droned on endlessly delivering the poison that ate away his body in the hope of killing the cancer without killing him. I have since written often of this young warrior that is our son.
Today though, I would like to speak of the fathers. I want you for just a moment to look into the mirror at the pitiable face that ultimately walks the halls of a world that has no place for him.
When at the children’s hospital I would speak to my fellows. We were like ghosts haunting the fringes of reality. Each day we marched into the world of pain and grief with our bags of hope, days work behind us, to be with our children.
We were men who could not fight, warriors whose swords slashed at air. Powerlessly weeping in closets of sadness we would rise and go to the foot of their beds to watch them fitfully sleep in a balled up stupor.
Having gone to sea as a youth, I know the vast emptiness of an ocean. Yet that ocean breathed. This sea of doubt only suffocates courage until what remains is a robot of determined love.
I tell you this only to shine a light on those invisible men lying there in the dark listening to the chemo pump. I want to tell them that they are not alone. I need them to know that I see them there and I love them each and every one.
Things may not be ok but no matter what happens, we will endure. We will be there like the fathers before us for time eternal because in the end it is simply where we belong.
For now things are better. His hair has grown back and he goes to school. He attends parties, laughs and has rejoined his fellows. Often though, in the photos his mother is always taking of the children and I see his fatigue.
This is not a battle that ends. We march onward into time knowing that each moment is a gift. Each day the fathers gird for a battle that they cannot win. Each day they listen to the God they deem Holy and hope … hope for new beginnings. Hope … for all the children and all the days ahead.