This is as real as it gets. I’ll tell you the last part first, and I’m sure many of you will feel your own story emerging from your silent memory depths.
After a while, I came to the certainty of God’s love and the hope of an eternal home. I began to see that this is not unusual for a man my age, especially one who was exposed to Agent Orange for a full year. I started to think of lessons I could learn from this forthcoming journey through surgery and recovery: the fragile and ephemeral nature of life, the need to be thankful for the blessings I enjoy (“abundant life,” according to the scriptures), the urgency of prioritizing and “getting my house in order,” the reminder that I am not in control of most things, and the importance of spending time with family and friends while I still can.
Now the way it unfolded. The doctor’s voice and the message, “Russell, we have found cancer…” The next few seconds were a blur. I’m sure the conversation continued for a while, and I think I must have said something stoically, like, “Well, what are the next steps?” But when that one word struck me, it felt like a dark shroud instantly covered my present and my future, and everything I had counted on was shaken like a seismic rupture. There was a dread that descended on every part of me, and all of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief stampeded into my psyche at once. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance raced through me like a Nazi blitzkrieg, and I lost all equilibrium. A storm of thoughts and emotions darkened every synapse of my brain, as though Thor was unleashing his bolts of fire into every fiber of my being.
In those fleeting moments that felt like an eternity, all my hopes of longevity were clouded by a foreboding question mark. My irreverent prayer was, “God, both my parents lived into their nineties! Why not me?” But the heavens were silent, at least in those searing seconds of anguish. My anger became rage, and an image from “Moby Dick” flashed across my mind’s eye. Captain Ahab atop the monstrous white mass that tormented him for years and seized his very soul. Plunging his harpoon into the malignancy that would soon take his life, while screaming, ‘Thou damned whale!” Yes, I saw myself attacking that morbid growth and venting my fury like a Marine assaulting an enemy stronghold.
That’s how it ended, although it’s far from over. And that’s how it began. I’ll be sharing much more as time goes by and as the Spirit gently guides me through the tempest with the assurance that the God who launched my vessel is the One who will finally grant me safe harbor.