Monday evening, December 28, will live in my heart and mind forever.
Finley Cooper Morgan, two years old and the youngest of our daughter Suzanne’s and husband Casey, had been looking a bit pale. He had an ear infection and had recently gotten over a cold.
Kids get colds and ear infections, that’s normal, and Finley’s appetite, I noticed, was in fine shape. But Beth mentioned his lack of color to Suzanne and she decided to have it checked out.
“Probably an iron deficiency or something like that,” they agreed.
Like most grandfathers, this came to me by reports and I didn’t think much of it.
“Yep, probably should have it checked out just to be sure”.
Kids – there’s always something and you’ve got to be diligent.
Suzanne told her mother that the doctor said the initial tests showed a precipitous drop in Finley’s blood count, from 11 to 4 since last year. Better see another doctor. After taking more blood, the second doctor explained that if there is just one number that’s dropped, it could be an iron deficiency or some other issue. If all the numbers came back low, it could be more serious.
But that’s highly unlikely.
“We’re going to Suzanne’s to be there when the doctor calls”, Beth told me. Casey was out of town.
I wondered at this urgency but remained optimistic and expected good news. We prayed for that. We sat in Suzanne’s living room waiting for the doctor to call. We played with Ava and Jackson – Finley seemed fine to me.
The phone rang. Suzanne went into the other room to take the call. It seemed longer than it was and we couldn’t hear the conversation.
Then Suzanne said, “Mom, come in here”.
In that instant I knew.
I heard Suzanne sobbing. We hugged her. The numbers were all very low and she must bring Finley to the emergency room of Dallas Children’s Hospital immediately. We gathered around Fin and prayed while his tearful mom held him. Beth went with Suzanne; I stayed and tried to concentrate on babysitting.
After the kids were in bed I sat on the couch and wondered about what had happened. The unthinkable was at our door and it was turning the knob. This couldn’t be. I prayed hard.
At 11:30 PM Beth called me from the hospital.
“Finley’s got leukemia”.
He was one of fewer than 3,000 children who were diagnosed with this cancer last year – in a country of more than 340 million people.
I lay in bed that night wondering why God would do this to a young couple who had tried hard to honor him; a beautiful mom who adored her kids and was so conscientious in teaching them about him; a dad who was faithful and working hard to provide and to provide an example.
I suppose, in those dark moments of fear and sadness, I was like the older brother in Jesus’ story – “all these years I’ve served you …” It wasn’t a very flattering reaction but it was an honest one.
As you may have said or thought on more than one occasion, “This just isn’t right”.
I thought of losing Fin. I didn’t sleep much.
We learned the next day that Finley has the less aggressive of the two types of leukemia and his cure rate is 90%. I never thought I could be so ecstatic over such news.
Finley’s prognosis is good, praise God!
The three years of chemotherapy will be a long and difficult journey but God will go with us every step of the way. This we know.
And so will many others. Their support, their encouragement, their love and their prayers will sustain us on the road ahead and will make lighter the burden.
Our friends Tom and Chris have a daughter who is a vibrant, healthy and beautiful young woman expecting her second child. When she was Finley’s age, she had leukemia. They know and they will be there for us.
Over lunch on New Year’s Eve, my friend Andrew told me, “Jack, everybody’s got something. Nobody goes through life untouched by hardship or pain”. For Andrew and Kayla I learned it was a son who had a rare and serious heart condition that took five years to cure.
On this journey we call life, the Lord our Good Shepherd sometimes lets us lay down in green pastures. Sometimes he leads us by the still waters. Life is good. But there are other times, quite unexpected, when we find ourselves walking through the dark valleys. In those times he is close by our side, protecting us, comforting us and being our God.
And we will see too the tender hearts of others as never before.
Yes, “everybody’s got something”.
Remembering this binds us together as mere mortals and makes bearing one another’s burdens not only possible but a thing of joy and beauty.
“He comforts us in all our troubles,” Paul writes, “so that we can comfort others” (II Corinthians 1: 4, NLT).
Is this not central to our understanding of all human suffering? It is part of the meaning – and the glory God will receive – in Finley’s illness and long recovery.
For the Christian it is the triumph of many a tragedy.
In this we rejoice and thank God.
Thank you for praying for our little Fin.