Open Hands

I bought fireworks the other day. They are for our annual New Year’s Eve party. We don’t usually have fireworks, but this year it is a combination New Year’s Eve and 5 year Cancer Free party. It is a celebration of life and you are all invited. Drop in and out as needed. Bring a dish, and a date. Or come on your own. If you need a place to sleep, we have beds, couches, and floors. Bill is tuning up the piano. The fireworks are ready. All friends are welcome. It is Mom’s Alive Day at our house and we would love to have you join us.
When you have cancer, each year you survive, it is a milestone. They say that the first year after is the most likely year to have a reoccurrence. Your chances are reduced significantly each year after until year 5. At year 5, they declare you cured. In case you need to know, the definition of cured is restored to complete health. Doctors release you. You go back to being a regular person, just like everyone else. Medical tests that have been a huge part of your life no longer torment you. No more needles, scans, bloodwork, medicines, teams of doctors conferring, just regular checkups. After two more scans between now and the New Year, I will be at my 5-year mark and let me tell you I will be celebrating. If you asked me the lessons I learned in this most dark of times I would tell you there were many.
1. Live fully- my new life motto…engage in life every day, do not let it pass you by.
2. Love God-no other way to live really. Make peace with him. Know that he loves you with abandon, purely with his whole heart. Let him.
3. Live in the moment- kind of goes with living fully. You only have this moment so make it count. Stop living for someday, because it may never come. Do what you have always wanted to do…do not put things off.
4. Leave nothing unsaid-make relationships right, including the your one with God. Tell people how you feel about them. Make love the center of everything.
5. Live with open hands.
This last one has been on my heart lately because of all the uncertainty in my world at the moment. I think it is the hardest lesson of all for me. I have always heard when your life is in danger priorities become clear. I found it to be true. The stuff that doesn’t matter drops away, and the things that do matter rise to the surface. However, when you have to face that you may have to leave even the important things behind, you find out exactly what you are holding on to. The thing is that until I faced the possibility of dying, I thought I was living with open hands. I guess thinking I could let things go is different from actually having to do it.
I remember the day I wrestled with God about releasing my children. I was in bed after a particularly brutal day dealing with the effects of chemo. I think it was the first day I really felt like I was dying. I cried out to God for my children. I wanted to know the outcome. “Just tell me, will I survive this or not. I need to prepare them.” Silence. I demanded, “Speak to me!” More silence. I wept. Still nothing. Groaning with anguish both physical and emotional, I exhausted myself. Then I saw, in my mind’s eye, my hands grasping…in fists. Holding tight. Knuckles white with fear. Then I saw my hands open…in them my children, and my very life. I got it then. Weeping I realized that my kids are not really mine. How many times had I said that before…hundreds…but now the reality set in hard and heavy. I gave them up along with a prayer of trust that if I left them that God would carry them and finish his work…even without me. Imagine that. I learned that even my life is not my own, and in the end it is not mine to determine when or even how I will leave this world. I only know that I will not be able to carry anything I am holding on to with me. That day I opened my hands. I lie in the bed and let go of the important things in my life, one by one.
Since then I have had many opportunities, now that I am cancer free, to take things back…to pick them up…to carry them…to hold on tight. Even as the uncertainty about jobs, finances, and other issues swirl in my life, I am reminded to open my hands once again. Open hands allow removal of items that are not mine to carry, but they also allow me to receive all that comes my way. I can say, “if you want my life you can have it…you can have my children…my job is yours…my house belongs to you anyway…all of it…take what you want. Give what you want… pour out blessings…restore life …provide grace…insight…wisdom…more vision.”
This Christmas I reflect on the past five years. I see what I have, and what I do not. I choose to open my hands in surrender. Even to the fact, that my leg has me back in the chair once again. I will live with open hands rather than temper tantrum fists. I will look, and I will SEE what he places in front of me. I will be grateful that he loved me enough to open his hand and give me his son because I know how hard that is to do.

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