It is for this very reason that I started giving foot massages at the Cancer Center where I work. I call it the "Royal Order of the Towel". And as most acts of service, it has done more for me than I believe it will ever do for those whom I serve. In addition, I hear so many stories and have the opportunity to share mine as well.
For example, I visited with a lady diagnosed with breast cancer almost 10 years ago. She has been in remission a few times but this time it has returned with a vengence. She now has cancer in the lung and liver and treatment has resumed. Her husband has been by her every step of the way. When we visited last, they were preparing for a trip Charleston, SC and were looking forward to the good food, good friends and beautiful scenery. If she didn't have an IV hooked up to the port in her chest, you wouldn't know this woman was sick. She had chosen to live life with little attention given to her disease.
I went from there to a lady who had lymphoma and her cancer was also in remission and had now returned. Unlike the first lady, she was alone. She tells me about her broken family. Her husband is plagued with addictions and her children share in his same malady. She has custody of her 13 year old grandson and by her won admission, "If it wasn't for him, I would lay down and die." She asked for more pain medication. I am sure she was hurting physically. But the emotional pain must have been what penetrated deepest in her soul. She just wanted relief.
I also visited with was a gentleman who had returned from Iraq within the past 6months. He went in for a routine check only to find that he had cancer. It was quite advanced and while we visited, he received apherisis to collect stem cells for his upcoming stem cell transplant. "Are you nervous or concerned about anything?", I asked.
"No. I am ready. I feel good. I am ready!"
"How long have you been diagnosed with cancer?", I asked.
"Oh, I don't use that word." he responded.
"I'm sorry. What word did I use?"
"That "C" word. I don't even know what that means. All I know is that I am sick and I am trying to get better."
"You are a real soldier", I said. "You keep fighting!"
So many stories I hear and most of the time I am able to share my story. A story of incredible faith from a brother who said with confidence, "I am going to be healed. I don't if it is on this side of heaven or the other side...but God has promised that I will be healed." It is Jay's testimony of faith that I share as I wash feet and rub lotion so that I might do at least one small thing to help people feel better. Yet, it is the message of hope that my brother lived that I want them to hear.
Some live to experience as much out of life as possible. Some live for others. Some simply fight. I hear the stories most every day.
Why do you live?
I'll be honest. I have asked myself that question lately. What wakes me up in the morning and gives me purpose for the day? Is it my family? Is it my job? Is it my hobbies? Is it the feeling of significance or accomplishment in any of these things? What is it?
Many days, as important as these things are, they are not enough to give me lasting joy or hope or fulfillment. I feel empty and incomplete...and I am.
You might expect that what would now follow is a penetrating lesson on what God has taught me. (For goodness sake, I will soon be a pastor. It's what pastor's do, right?)
Yet, as I write, I am still in the valley. I don't have that story...yet. But I will.
I look forward to writing that story when that day comes. Until then...I'll keep washing.