Hospital Visit ~ Guest Post by Jill Buteyn

A few days ago, I arrived at the hospital to see Kara and then realized I hadn’t asked her room number. I got on the elevator, thought I remembered what floor she was on the last time, and then pushed that number.

The doors opened and I stepped off. Everything looked different.

This isn’t oncology, is it?

No. The nurse at the desk replied. It’s hospice.

Shoot, I thought. I am on the right floor. I’d forgotten Kara would be on a different floor. One where it’s about comfort instead of fighting. Those moments, those realization always steal my breath for a second and remind me that this thing we’re dealing with is real.

Most of the time it feels surreal. People ask me how Kara is, or how her family and friends are doing, and I think… Kara can’t be dying. It’s impossible. This isn’t real. But no one is listening to me. Her body isn’t listening to her.

Many days, I live in denial. Other days there are tears. Other days, crabbiness. My family can attest to that last one and to the apologies that follow.

At the hospital, Kara and I discussed the book we’re writing together about how to show up in each other’s lives and walk through suffering together. We talked about some friend things, and then we’re simply there, in quiet. And I have to remind myself that I don’t need to fill the silence. That Kara isn’t expecting me to, and in fact, probably appreciates that I don’t.

A show is on T.V., and the person says eating a certain dessert is on her bucket list, her must do list before she dies. Kara and I don’t say anything about the words, but I’m sure she notices. Anger flashes through me. How can people use that phrase so lightly? How can they say before I die so flippantly? And then I remember what it is to not be here, dealing with cancer and Kara dying, and I know I’ve said those same words before. And so I work to forgive the person on the T.V. for not knowing what we’re going through in another world far from hers.

I always fight this tendency when I’m with Kara to make sure she knows that I’m not okay with her cancer, with her dying. I don’t know what that’s about. I’m pretty sure she knows I’m not okay with it. I’m pretty sure she knows I’m going to miss her like crazy with a slew of other people when she’s gone. I think she understands that I ache for her, for her suffering and for her knowing. That I ache for her kids and for Jason.

But for some reason, I always have to say something.

I don’t understand all of this. I won’t pretend to be okay when I see corners slipping away from Kara and more reality setting in. Why should we pretend? God’s okay with us coming to him broken. He’s okay with broken hearts that can’t see through the fog.

He’s okay with us exactly as we are. In our mess. In our hurt. In our pride. He’s just waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Waiting for us to figure out he’s waiting for us.

We do know how this story is going to end. There will be victory. There will be grace. There is always grace. There will be moments we will see glimpses of our great God. And there will be hard. Tears. Pain.

I believe, even when I don’t understand. And it’s taken me a long time to get there—here. There have been many tears. Some anger. There have been moments I couldn’t believe and I’ve had to ask him to help me believe.

He’s okay with that too.

The edges of friendship slip away slowly right now. I think we all feel it. It’s another corner being taken. Another thing that is stolen from Kara and each of us around her.

I fight this feeling of panic I when I feel the normal of friendship start to fade away.

Does she know how we feel about her? Does she know we love her? Some days these thoughts consume me. Other days I rest in the knowledge that she knows.

We’re losing her a little at a time, and we’re all grasping, stumbling through how to do this together. We’re thankful for each other. And we’re thankful for Kara. Every moment we have is a gift.

I’m thankful Kara believes tired, painful, vomit-filled days are still worth living. I’m thankful she still lets us in, even on the dark days. That she lets us sit in hospital rooms with her when she could survive without us. Sometimes I think those moments are more for us than they are for her.

I’m thankful she continues to let us enter in with her even when we don’t have a clue what we’re doing.

I’ve been struggling with this post for days, and I think it’s because this is the moment things should get wrapped up in a bow. Solve it. Bring it all together nicely with some message of hope.

And while there is hope, this can’t be wrapped up easily in a pretty ribbon. It just can’t. God is still with us. He hasn’t left us. But maybe he’s okay when we say it’s hard and we don’t know what we’re doing. Maybe that’s exactly how he wants us to come to him.

What’s your hard? Are you waiting to have it together before taking it to God? He’s okay with our mess. He’ll take us while we’re still in it, while we’re still nursing our doubts and fears. If you’re waiting to have it all together… you don’t need to wait any longer.