When Sorrow Walks with Me
Updated: Dec 3, 2019
Eli’s birthday is tomorrow. As my school semester is ending, my plan is to really comb through my old entries and get them into some kind of shape for a book. But, I can’t even express how hard it is to read my thoughts from the past.
I am also getting ready to submit my final entry for the book being published by the university where I’m a student. I submitted an entry from 2012 about when I picked out a cemetery plot for Eli during his first treatment. The essay is less about Eli and more about my experience. When the editor of this book contacted me, she said, “We would all like to know what happened to Eli and wondered if you would be interested including that to wrap up the story?” She obviously didn’t know that he had passed, but I said, “I really would rather not because the essay is not really about him.” I think the book (my book, not the university’s book) will also be less about Eli, actually.
In looking at posts from Eli’s birthdays, there was one constant — he was always going to Toys R Us to pick out a toy. I could not count how many times we went to Toys R Us. And those of you that have been around a while know how much he loved toys and buying toys, mostly buying toys. I did this another year, but in honor of Eli’s birthday, please consider donating a new toy (maybe a Transformer or Diecast car or Legos, Eli’s top three favs) to the Toys for Tots drive. I choose Toys for Tots because it is a respected nationwide organization and you guys span the country. So it’s a way that we can do something that reminds us of Eli in a unified way no matter where each of us lives. Do this at your convenience, not necessarily exactly on his birthday. Those of you that know me personally, know that I don’t get hung up on exact dates for anything. Please, also consider remembering Eli's Block Party Childhood Cancer Foundation on Giving Tuesday, or at any point as you make your end-of-the-year charitable decisions. You can donate through our website at www.elisblockparty.org.
On this night, December 2, in 2015, I posted the following:
"'I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.' - Robert Browning Hamilton
I was reminded of this poem, recently, as I was reading an article about suffering. Sorrow, or suffering, is like a key that unlocks our full potential as created beings. It helps us reach that extreme completeness of the sentient and spiritual nature exclusive to humans. The apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome that suffering produces endurance, character, and hope, so rejoice in it. James, in writing to Jewish Christians, tells them to “count it joy” to suffer. Doesn’t seem to make sense does it, how can we be happy bad things happen? Using myself as an example, am I supposed to be happy that my son has cancer? Of course not. Cancer is a satanic tool, as are all agents of suffering. I rejoice in a new appreciation for others and others’ hardships. I rejoice in a new perspective to know true joy because of the contrast to true suffering. I rejoice that sorrow helps me see.
Suffering reminds us -- or teaches us if we don’t already comprehend -- that we are vulnerable to this world. It slaps us with the reality of our temporal and transitory existence here. If this enlightenment is sincere, along with the belief of a divine Creator, we can’t help but humbly seek a closer relationship with the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. Communication with our Creator improves, we seek a place away from suffering. We are driven to know Him more intimately through the study of His providentially preserved words collected in the Bible.
What if the suffering just makes us angry at God? I have seen or read comments from other parents in our boat, or a worse boat, that they are “mad at God” for their sorrowful experience. They blame God for the affliction. I’ve said before, follow the trail from evil and it leads to the source, evil. To be “mad” at God is still a belief in God, so it is a relationship that needs mending with more study for a better understanding. And, God’s gift to humans is free will, so that allows for one to choose anger or choose contentment. Anger is part of sorrow and it can increase our sense of God’s presence. It can stimulate an interest in God’s role in our lives on earth. Anger drives us to find answers. Suffering, in short, can improve our relationship with God and lead to a deeper desire for heaven.
Suffering also highlights evil, revealing the handiwork of Satan on earth. With our eyes now open, we see more opportunities for compassion and feel compassion more intensely. The victimization of the weak and weary stirs a fight in us that we did not know we could muster until we knew sorrow. We are, now, fiercely compelled to help others because of the suffering we see. Our self-defenses of mental strength and courage are ignited as we are challenged by the Devil with our own trial and affliction. This constant exposure to sadness and suffering grows a hatred for the father of it. Suffering, in short, builds our character as a soldier in the battle with evil.
Suffering broadens our understanding of what a blessing is. Stepping through the door opened by suffering, our heart is able to distinguish between blessings of earth and blessings of heaven, measuring the worth of each. Noise in our lives is silenced and clarity reveals the Hand that holds us. Sorrow provides the contrast that we need for comparison. Without knowing sorrow, we can’t know joy; without knowing weakness, we can’t know strength. Suffering, in short, is a teacher.
Is it not amazing that God’s power is so masterful over Satan, that He can take the worst of his evil and actually make it a blessing to us. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy that my son has cancer, or glad that he is suffering. It means that all the suffering he and we endure because of Satan will have a positive impact on our lives in some way. That is the power and love of a Designer and Creator.
It was this week in 2013, that Eli turned 9-years-old, and that we found out he had relapsed the first time. We have been living with aggressive, untreatable, inoperable cancer for two years and counting. I do know a blessing when I see it. Eli is doing very well, his blood work is the same as last week, and he even gained half of a pound. We tried to play “I Spy Eli” at the hospital, which is when I post his picture on the St. Jude Facebook page and we offer a Ford keychain to anyone who says “I Spy Eli.” But, we were not there very long this morning, so even if someone saw the picture and happened to be in Memphis, it would have been tough to find him.
He turns 11 on Thursday, and we will be “sneaking” home for his birthday, and for me to go on a field trip with Caleb, and for me to try to get up a Christmas tree and some kind of decorations so the kids feel like we made an effort, and so that our neighbors know we know it is Christmas time. And, it will be fun, trying to make the house look cheery, knowing the cloud that hangs over us this year. Eli loves Christmas. With his birthday being in December, and Christmas being in December, he kind of claims it. He has been working on a Christmas list since September… he really has. I hope that I can make it through his birthday and Christmas short-sighted, and enjoy the moment that I am in.'"