For the past twelve years, tomorrow could never come soon enough.
Tomorrow is August 4th; it marks what would have been our twelfth wedding anniversary. Half of those anniversaries (including our wedding day) were celebrated with exceedingly good health and our whole lives ahead of us; the latter half, beneath the shadow of cancer. But not even disease could rob me of the joyful anticipation of those latter six August fourths.
Oh how I loved planning each one! I recall the first of the last six we spent at a little family run Italian restaurant in the city, before heading down for a beautiful week at the south-west coast in Cornwall. At that point in time, cancer seemed a lot less threatening. Annie was too beautiful, too talented, too lovely, too young, too full of life for real cancer – the kind that ended in a casket. But I remember exactly where I was when I experienced the first (of many) unexpected and unwelcome bite of cancer’s reality. Not in the oncologist’s office – not anywhere near a hospital – but at a service station in Oxford. One hot sunny day in what must have been late August 2007, we dropped into a service station for lunch on our way down to Hayes and as Annie – whose body and mind in that moment appeared only to be occupied by hunger and deciding where to have lunch – walked ahead of me I looked at her in the distance and it suddenly dawned on me “What if my Annie dies from this?” It was more than a mere passing thought; the thought possessed me, engulfed me and disoriented me. I had nothing within me to deal with the answer to that question and I recall feeling the sudden grip of overwhelming vulnerability, loneliness and fear. Of course, at that time, this was not something that Annie and I were ready to talk about and I simply kept the thought to myself and the Lord – who not only perceived it from afar but no doubt swiftly drew near to my aid and comfort.
Then came months of surgery, chemo and radiotherapy and the reality started to manifest itself. I always remember Annie remarking that nothing made you feel more like you had cancer than the treatment of it. No year in our married lives ever felt as long as that one, I think. Unlike the last anniversary we had, which seems almost like yesterday. It just doesn’t seem that long ago since I was sharing our anniversary plans and excitement on this blog and Annie and I were headed out to the town where we spent our very first anniversary.
Death has, in a sense, robbed me of the joyful anticipation of future August fourths. I miss not having an Annie to prepare something for. I miss watching her enjoy things. I miss her loving affirmation of my efforts and plans to show my love for her. I cherish and read almost everything she ever wrote to and for me – old shopping lists, letters, journal entries, post-it notes, cards – I sometimes wish I could just find a hidden letter somewhere; something she’d written to me but never sent; something I’d never read before so that I could read it for the first time and imagine it written for that very moment.
Annie was my greatest earthly encourager and some days, some hours, I just get that same feeling I got in that service station all those years ago; sometimes I just feel too overwhelmed to function, to operate, to think, to do or go to or plan the next thing that requires my attention. Without her saying a word, my Annie’s life radiated encouragement to me. Just looking at her would often make everything better. Her embrace was God’s cure for a thousand maladies and her encouragement was louder than all the cheers of all those who love me. I miss those things greatly and the difficulties are now much harder for it without her.
I don’t mean this post to be absent of hope. Christ is my hope. My ever increasing hope. If tomorrow is granted me, I am sure my hope in Him will be deeper than any August fourth on personal record. This post is simply full of the horrible and painful reality of the fallen nature of this sin-sick world.
I thank Jesus for those past twelve August fourths. I thank Him for His grace and faithfulness because in between them all, married life was not only overshadowed by cancer but by my own sinfulness. Reminiscing about the past is often romantic but not always realistic. It was by God’s grace and faithfulness that I experienced and enjoyed the married life that I had.
Thank you Lord Jesus for Your loving faithfulness, mercy and grace – past, present and future.
In His Arms,