Tag Archives: long winter

Take THAT, Cancer! A letter of hope.

30 Apr
Cicada swarm of 2013

Remembering the cicada swarm of 2013

Call me Jim, for want of any other name.

My world came crashing down about a year ago when the cicadas swarmed, with their beady little eyes and gnashing teeth, making a noise that was so horribly loud I thought it would never stop. But it did, and they disappeared, leaving destruction in their wake. I could see it on the oak tree across the street all summer long, a constant reminder of my own condition: dead, cancerous brown tufts where there was supposed to be verdant new life.

I tried to live a normal summer, but the after-effects of my treatment was devastating. My limbs are still scarred from the abuse I suffered, and I ached in the core of my being. Some days it sapped all my energy just to keep breathing. 

By autumn, I began to shut down. I took no pleasure in the foliage across the street because I just couldn’t bring myself to feel joy. One by one, I began to drop those things that gave me my own color.

I slept through most of the winter, and through the long Spring that Refused to Come. I just couldn’t seem to get going again. As we were pounded by one snowfall after another, each bringing the cold back with it like an unwanted relative, I became certain I would never be warm again. It was almost too much to bear. I wanted God to take me. I even begged Him. I stood outside one morning with my bare, frail arms stretching upward and I made a fist as best I could in the buffeting wind and screamed,“ENOUGH!”

But He didn’t take me.

Spring blossoms, at last

Across the street, spring blossoms, at last

Instead, He gave me another spring. Today I look around at all the color across the street, and I’m amazed. The oak is green again, having sloughed off those dead branches. The cherry tree on the corner is alive with pink blossoms. Front lawns are decorated with yellow daffodils, purple hyacinths, and tulips of all colors. Bees are darting about the fragrant blooms, transporting life from one end of their world to another.

Cynically, I say to myself, it’s only temporary. The colorful blossoms will fall away, and all around will be ordinary green. It will be as if spring never happened.

Or will it? I consider the oak across the way. I remember only a few years ago when it was a frail sapling, struggling to survive. Yet each year after the spring, it is a little bit taller, stronger, and heartier. What a nice word, hearty. I let it linger on my tongue, tasting it gently, longingly.

Finally, each day is warmer than the last. I stand still in the front yard, staring up at the sun as His life-giving sap runs through my veins. I can tell that I, too, have been touched; my own color is returning. It was a long, arduous year, but I made it. And like the oak, I know I will never be the same as I was. God may, indeed, still take me before I’m ready to go, but right now I’m alive, and He is with me, so I will lift my face to the heavens and sing praises for the days I have.

I peer into the window where I can see my friend Bill resting in his chair after another round of chemo. I beckon wildly but he does not notice. I wish, as I have so often since the cicadas came, that I could speak to him, but I don’t know how.

If I could though, do you know what I would say?

I’d say, “Bill, take heart and look to the heavens. If He would bring me through all this…me, an ordinary dogwood tree, what do you suppose He’s doing in you?”

Waiting for the Thaw

19 Feb

The sun is out today, for what seems like the first time in months, but winter’s calling cards are everywhere. It could easily depress me if I let it.

Snow-lined street

If it isn’t blocking a car, it’s called ambiance.

Our small suburban side streets are still a mess. After the last storm, most folks dug out only enough to free their vehicles, leaving a patchwork of tar and snow. Sand is strewn over the narrow driving lane, making everything dirty. A stream that formed on our sidewalk is rushing the rapidly melting snow into the gutters at the bottom of the hill.

Snow blob

I won’t name him, lest I become attached. If I DID, he would be called Blobbert.

I stare out my window; a child’s snowman stares back from across the street. He’s actually only a blob with a hat, surrounded by footprints. However, his creator is about five years old, so he’s perfect, of course. He’s the ideal shape for a melting reference so I’ll say it…the sun beating down on him makes his hat look most unnecessary. I’m sure he won’t survive the day. I can’t tell whether his lemon eyes and little O-shaped mouth are expressing surprise or if he’s pleading with me to save him. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I won’t mind it when he’s gone because for once, I’m tired of the snow. We didn’t even get that much this year, really. My sister in Denver, she’s still getting regular blizzards, as are my brothers in northern New England, and my friends in Washington and Maine. I grew up in Rhode Island. I know what a lot of snow looks like, and this is nothing. It just feels like a lot this year.I heard a weather forecaster say it’s not over yet, and that there may be one or two more snowstorms before spring arrives. It just makes me sigh. All those dirty white mounds piled high around the lamp poles in the grocery store parking lots—where will they put more? Let’s hope today’s sun melts them down a few feet.

Still, as I look over the tired, dirty landscape, I can’t help but feel hope. I know that just five feet from the snowman, crocuses are sleeping under that blanket of whiteness. I can almost hear the roots of the brown grass and of the giant Norway Maple in the middle of my front lawn drinking deeply from the crisp, fresh water that seeps into the ground all around them. The tree sports tiny buds like tightly clenched fists, just waiting for the sign to let go.

Even now, there are robins on their way here, and the Canada geese are making flight plans for the long trip south. Mama cardinals are holed up in the trees all around us, keeping their eggs warm. Butterflies are nearly transformed, still snugly curled in their cocoons. Everything is about to change.

Tree blossoms, tightly clenched

The trees of the field are ready to dance.

This is a time of hope and anticipation, especially for those of us who might be feeling weary. We can take heart because we know what’s coming, despite the apparent bleakness. We’ve been here before. We can hang in there. Just a few more weeks. Regardless of the shadows, and no matter how cold it gets, whatever you’re going through right now—know that it’s temporary and something joyful is on its way. Take heart, spring is coming.