From Mourning to Dancing: A Lesson from the Cross, part 3

I met her only once a few years ago, but our short time together left a significant impression on me. She was an older woman who had recently established medical care after going without for years. Her new doctor had discovered that she had liver disease and referred her to me. Unfortunately he had also discovered that she had diabetes, rather advanced kidney disease, and metastatic breast cancer - all of which were more concerning than her liver disease. As I prepared to see her, I read through her chart and silently groaned. Her liver disease was the least of her problems, and I had little to offer that would make a difference. To make matters worse, she had traveled over an hour to see me.

Evaluating her situation I saw only a woman who had recently received more than her share of bad news and who had now traveled out of town for a visit that was essentially a waste of her time. When I entered the room, however, I was instantly struck by her warm smile and joyful demeanor. It was so significant that I briefly wondered whether she was aware of all I’d just read in her chart. She was very well aware though, and our visit, which lasted less than half an hour, proved to be one of the more significant encounters of my medical career…

We talked briefly about her liver disease and her other diagnoses. And at some point during our conversation I apologized that I was not able to do more for her, especially since she had traveled such a far distance to see me. Her response stopped me in my tracks. With a heartwarming smile she explained that she did not drive so her daughter had driven her to the visit. “I don’t get to spend much time with my daughter alone anymore. Either she’s working or her husband or the grandkids are with us. And I love them of course, but it was so nice to spend uninterrupted time with my daughter in the car today. I’m so thankful for this visit.”

I was speechless.

In a situation that would have left me aggravated, she somehow saw the beautiful gift from God hidden within. But not only did she see it, she was genuinely grateful for it. And as we continued talking I slowly realized it was this very same gratitude that allowed her to exude joy in the face of such overwhelming bad news.

I’ve reflected on this encounter more than once over the past few years, but since learning of my father’s cancer a couple months ago, God has placed this memory on my mind countless times. And I know He’s speaking to me. Our family is still early in this cancer journey. The blessings surrounding us are numerous, and if we simply stop to look, they’re easy to identify. But I know that harder days may come. Days that won’t feel so good. Days that may require us to look carefully to see the blessings hidden within.

But I wonder … if we are intentional with our gratitude now, on the easy days, will it become second nature, and that much easier to do, on the hard days?

My dad is able to receive cancer treatment at MD Anderson - an amazing center with experience treating this rare cancer. Thank you God!

Right now he is two weeks into his radiation treatment. He feels well and has had minimal side effects that are well controlled with nausea medicine. Thank you God!

Being in Houston has allowed him to spend time with dear friends that live there but who he hasn’t seen in years. Thank you God!

Houston is a city filled with delicious restaurants and amazing grocery stores - two important things for my foodie parents! And since right now my dad feels well, he and my mom have actively participated in the Houston dining scene, enjoying a new restaurant everyday. Thank you God!

Houston is a quick trip to and from New Orleans. My parents were able to come home for Father's Day weekend. This weekend my boys and I spent a long weekend visiting my parents in Houston. We filled every minute of our trip with quality time: puzzles, cards, movies, guitar time, a day at a friend’s lake house, delicious meals, and more ice cream than we needed. Next weeknd my sister will be in Houston so she, too, can spend a long weekend with my parents. Thank you God!

My parents, sister, and I now have a group text for the four of us. I’ve texted regularly with my sister and mom for years. But for some reason communication with my dad was typically limited to our in-person gatherings on the weekends. All four of us, regularly texting with each other at random times throughout the week … in some ways we feel even closer now than we already were before this diagnosis. ❤️ Thank you God!

And this morning, while sitting at mass with my parents and boys, God’s words spoke loud and clear:

You changed my mourning into dancing;
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:12a,13b

Do I give thanks because You turn my mourning into dancing? 
Or do You turn my mourning into dancing through my gratitude?

Open my eyes, so I may see the gifts You’ve hidden within this journey.
Open my heart, so I may receive these gifts as evidence of Your never-ending presence and love.
Open my mouth, reminding and encouraging me to speak of these gifts to others.
And open my arms, as You help me lift them high in praise and thanksgiving. 
And may this very stance be the first step in my dance of joy.

Praying, as always, that God breathes life into these words ...


(blessed by these words? feel free to share, so you can bless others.)


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