“It’s cancer,” the doctor said, and Susan thought it was strange that, as clearly as she heard those words, she didn’t understand another thing out of his mouth. His lips moved, she heard the rise and fall of a voice, but her mind refused to grasp the meaning of the words that slipped through her brain. She was thinking about her father, of his funeral less than six months before, of his battle against the enemy that now attacked her daughter.
“She’s eight …” Susan finally managed to say.
“And we’ll fight this as aggressively as we know how.”
“But … but she’s eight.”
It seemed like a ridiculous comment later, but at the moment it was all her mouth could produce.
The thought of her dad stayed with her as she drove home. She grabbed on to his memory, allowing herself a respite from having to face the diagnosis. As she pulled into the driveway, she remembered what he told her only a couple of months before his death. She smiled as she thought of his deep, resounding voice, speaking quietly into the phone she clutched to her ear. “Sue,” he’d said, “times like these give you two choices. You either turn away in desperation, or you grab onto God’s pinky finger and don’t let go for anything.”
Susan and her family had decided to grab on. And, she decided as she pushed the house key into the lock, they would grab on again.
Treatment was brutal—months in a small hospital room, surrounded by nurses, doctors and other sick children. Susan and Janice walked the halls every day that Jan was allowed, meeting and visiting with the other children on the ward. On days Jan was too sick to meander out of the room, new friends stepped in for a brief hello and good wishes.
It was on one of these days Ernie’s mom stopped in her tracks, looking at the walls of Janice’s room. “What is this?”
Susan glanced around the room, it’s walls almost as familiar to her now as the ones in her home. “What?”
“All the signs. What’s with all the signs?”
Susan felt mild surprise. Everyone who’d entered the room since their arrival had been greeted by the signs. Everyone knew that, if you talked very long to Susan or Michael, when he had time enough away from work to join his family that they’d hear about the love and mercy of God. Even Janice had grown bold in sharing her faith, as simple as it was. But Patrice and Ernie were fairly new at the hospital. His diagnosis had come less than a month before. This was her first venture into Janice’s room.
“Oh. They’re Bible verses. Janice likes to read them, and it’s just easier for her than trying to manage a Bible on days she’s ill.”
Patrice looked around again. “Bible verses? I went to church when I was a little girl, but it never occurred to me as an adult that the Bible could be anything useful now.”
Susan felt surprise. “It’s a great source of comfort or us. We hope because of the promises God gives in His word.”
“But what if it doesn’t’ work?”
“God always works. Not always in the way we hope, but He always works for our best, and to bring His perfect plans to fruition.”
The woman stood another minute. “What CD is that?”
“It’s some of the praise songs we sing at church.”
Patrice stood silently, then left the room without a comment. Susan watched her sleeping child for a minute and slipped out of the room, followed the near-stranger into the hall. She knew that, at one point in her life she would have felt timid, but no more. She’d seen enough, endured enough, trusted God enough in the last few months to step forward now without a thought.
But not without a prayer. “Gracious Father God,” she whispered as she neared Ernie’s room, “give me the right words to say.”
She tapped on the door.
She had to tell Patrice about holding on to God’s pinky.
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