On Tuesday morning at “Story Time” at our local library, I met Vanessa and her 2 small preschool boys. A few weeks later, we met at the park where she willingly told me her life story:
Raised by atheist parents, she described her life growing up as joyless, loveless, and homeless. Physically, she and her sister were well provided for, but were bereft of any demonstration of love and affection. Often, Vanessa spent afternoons and week-ends with a local (Mormon) family where she felt acceptance and the warmth of familial relationships. After entering University, she squandered her life with alcohol and the “hook-up” world of sexual promiscuity. Needing an escape after graduation, Vanessa moved to Finland to work and stay with relatives. Her spiritual hunger led her to a church and eventually to a profound spiritual experience with Jesus Christ.
Over the next few years, I didn’t see Vanessa much. When her 3rd son was born, I brought over a meal. That was it. Until nine months ago, when, out of the blue, I called. I remember her voice was deliberately measured and strained when she answered, “Oh Mary, Adam is very sick. He is scheduled to have a brain tumor removed early on December 26th.” Bill and I drove over immediately to be with them and to pray. The surgery removed a cancerous tumor but the prognosis was grim, with no real successful treatment available.
After Vanessa’s aggressive research, they decided to pursue alternative treatment in Houston in February. Adam’s parents, Joe and Pat, had flown from England to stay with the children for a month. During this time, we invited Joe and Pat and the boys over and enjoyed lively discussion over a pot of tea. Often the conversations centered on home construction since Joe is a tradesman. One afternoon, I invited Joe to see the enormous renovation project of my brother-in-law’s family estate in West Virginia. He was so “chuffed” and chatted all the way back. He posed this question; “Vanessa tells me your Bill is “in the religious business”. What exactly does he do?” For the next 20 minutes, I tried to describe what knowing Christ and living the gospel looks like. When they departed in March, we invited them to stay with us on their next trip.
Last week I picked them up from the airport. Their spirits are sagging, for Adam’s treatment has failed to reduce the tumor. In the morning, before they go to Adam’s house, we sit and talk about life, death, suffering, God’s will, miracles, prayers and hope. Sometimes tears flow. Sometimes we listen to stories. Sometimes we laugh.
We’re on the pathway with them during this dark time. The future is unknown. But one thing is certain, Joe Pat, and Vanessa are not suffering alone, “God sets the lonely in families…” (Psalm 68.6).