Following Gary’s MRI a week ago, we have now received the unhappy but not altogether unexpected news that his tumor shows “significant progression.” You might recall that, for about 6 months, the tumor has been stable and has shown no signs of growth. We had been told all along that the tumor was very much alive — merely napping — and that, in all medical probability, it would awake at some point and begin to grow again, maybe aggressively. The past couple of weeks, during which Gary has been increasingly tired, weak and confused, have given us reason to expect that something was going on. Walking is very difficult for him, impossible without assistance, and he is sleeping for many or most hours of the day. His eyes have lost something of their light, he does not laugh or smile quite so readily as he has the past few months, and it is hard to engage him conversationally. He is still very pleasant, always grateful, and totally trusting but we cannot deny that he is trickling away from us and that, barring a miraculous healing from God, he seems to be in the home stretch of his race. It is sad and hard to watch, but we remind ourselves that our assignment as a family is what is has been all along — to love him and one another best we can for whatever time we’re given. It is a privilege and a gift to be at this place.
A couple of days ago, a close friend of Gary’s, whose wife is battling cancer, came by to visit. For the entire day and for most of that visit, Gary communicated with head nods and single syllable replies. As the visit was drawing to a close, i asked Gary if he’d say a prayer, remembering Bill and his wife Beth as they go through their cancer season. Gary bowed his head and, with total clarity, offered an eloquent and grateful prayer, having reclaimed his native tongue for that conversation with God. He ended his prayer with the same words that i’ve heard him intone hundreds of times before, “Lord Jesus, we love You but we pray for grace everyday to love You more.”
Even in his weakness, Gary is teaching us how to live and reminding us what to love.
i played at a gathering in Atlanta last night, one of the very rare times that i’ve left home in the past 9 and a half months. Before i left, i kissed Gary goodbye and went through a sweet ritual that i usually reserve till bedtime:
“i love you,” i say.
“I love you,” he says.
“i’m glad you’re my brother,” i say.
“I’m glad you’re my brother,” he says.
“You’re the best brother in the world,” i say.
“You’re the best brother in the world,” he says. …
We’ve been sharing those words, or ones like them, for many, many years. Somehow they feel different now. … And they are the only ones that matter.
Thank you for your continued prayers and kindness. We are humbled and grateful.