I spent a good portion of my day watching our fish die.
While I had been looking forward to his passing (simply for the sake of fish care), it has been kind of depressing. He’d been swimming a little cock-eyed the past week and I knew something was amiss. At breakfast the boys and I watched him swim upside-down and sideways in the few moments he struggled to rise from the bottom of the bowl. I promised the boys a toilet burial, and for this they are content to bid their fish goodbye.
Meanwhile I am struggling with guilt and weird sadness. Possibly because I wished for his death many a day when cleaning out his bowl, which was usually a mason jar on the kitchen counter. (We used to keep our fish in a pitcher until someone tried to drink him at a party. True story.) It’s also just sad to watch and know he’s dying. I learned fish resuscitation (yes, this is a thing) at Nature Camp in junior high (yes, I am a nerd), but even this won’t save him. It’s his time.
Our slow and silent fish death reminds me of our sudden duck death and then the joyous (but not without struggle) birth of Cooper back in May. It reminds me how out of control I am of this life and the things in it, as much as I think most of the time that I have a hand in the control business.
I do not realize how much I think I control things until I am smashed with some hard reality that I wish I could escape but can’t. Take, for instance, the return of Lynn’s cancer. (I talked about that this week in my newsletter. Are you getting my newsletter?) Rob’s Mom was diagnosed three years ago with a crazy rare blood and bone cancer after months of pain and discomfort. The cancer had weakened her bones and she had several broken ribs at the time. She began chemo and had a fairly miraculous go of it. Almost no side effects from the drugs and improvement beyond what the doctors were thinking (the lesions in her bones even seemed to shrink). These days, it was easy to forget she is a cancer survivor. She never even stopped babysitting all the grand-kids.
But a recent diagnosis of cancer in several organs and places in her body means another round of chemo starting tomorrow, which is now, after midnight, today. The doctors seem hopeful, but wouldn’t I love there to be no need for doctors at all? This cancer beast, which seems to leave none in this world untouched, is a nasty thing. I know God can turn even nasty beasts into tools to shape our beauty. Yet I am finding myself resistant to this particular tool at this particular time. (Keep up with Lynn’s Caring Bridge for more updates.)
We’ve had other things in this time as well: sickness, my own and the kids’. In fact, I am typing with my laptop balanced on my knees and a baby on my chest—up from a coughing fit and now, restlessly, back down. Last night was the first night in four that I spent in bed, the other three sitting in a chaise to hold Cooper upright, which kept her cough at bay. Lincoln and Sawyer are just returning to school and to normal, but we had one of those everyone-at-home, everyone-restless weeks last week. The kind that drive you all a little mad.
You have probably been reading my blog and thinking it’s all sugar cookies and lovely photos and great kids—and it is!—but it’s also this. Realizing when the hard things hit, I live my life like I can control any small thing in it, from fish to cancer to sleeping schedules. The joy of life, tempered with the badness and the sadness. Never in our control, despite our wild imaginings.
Is that at all like your life?
There are beautiful sugar cookies, sure, but also grease burns on my wrist from cooking bacon. Would we know joy without the sorrow? Would we know the taste of a great dish without the burns in making it? Okay, probably on that second question, yes, we could totally enjoy food without the burns. Maybe we could also know joy without sorrow, but somehow the sorrows define and sharpen the experience of the joys.
Pray with me for Lynn, will you? And I’d love to hear in the comments if you are (or have experienced) that same dichotomy of the joy and the sorrow in your own life. Know, my dear readers, that I don’t post pretty pictures in order that you might think my life that pretty. Those are simply the joys I’m celebrating. I’ll share some of the sorrows too, but even if I don’t, know that my life is, I imagine, just as full of both parts as your own.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a fish to