Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Coffee Talk Companion: "A Wicked Sense of Tumor."

Well, well. Nicely played, Whelchel. Nice-ly play-ed. Using the big guns on us so early in the year. We applaud you. 'Cause, really, cancer's not funny, right?


Lisa, not only is cancer, to quote Jerri Blank, "hi-larious," but, whilst your best friend's mom was being diagnosed with cancer, our BEST FRIEND was being diagnosed with cancer. So, not only did you underestimate our comedy threshold, lady, you also underestimated the proximity of our relationship to said comedy. That is a one-two double snap in your Diet Dr. Pepper-drinkin', Chik-fil-A-eatin' face. Oh, don't worry, we'll let you talk, but please know that you're gonna have to much bettah than three-person-transitive-funny-disease to quiet us.


Yesterday, a close friend of mine’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. When she called I just didn’t know what to say and I so desperately wanted to say the right thing and not say the wrong thing or not not say something I should say. I’ve never been through anything like this personally. And I’ve walked through enough things to know that you don’t know what you don’t know and you certainly don’t know like someone who knows so don’t pretend to know.

Well, what she couldn't say on the phone she certainly managed to foist upon us this week. Sheesh. And, like, when has Lisa ever been at a loss for words? Wefinds it hard to imagine there has ever been a moment when Lisa had nothing to say.

So after I hung up the phone I did four things. I went directly into my walk-in closet and prayed. I know that sounds so godly but the truth is, because I love this friend so much, it felt like I had been kicked in the stomach with this news and I needed to get away and get alone and just be doubled over with the Lord.

Just to note here: Were this a normal person, she would have gone into her walk-in closet to get dressed. Were this a semi-normal person, she would have gone into her walk-in closet to pray while getting dressed. Because this is Lisa, she went into her walk-in closet to pray. We feel it's necessary to carefully illustrate the differences between the three.

I didn’t know what to say to my friend but not having the words didn’t limit me with the Lord. I could pour my heart out to Him and He understood. I could pray with words that failed and then I could groan when even those words failed. I could bring this extended family that I know so little, yet love so deeply due to the mystery of friendship, before Him and He knows each one of them intimately. All I knew to do was ask that He hear the cry of my heart to answer the cry of their hearts even though I don’t know the particulars of their secret soul-tears.

"Soul-tears"!?!?!?! We'd love to see what dictionary He uses to figure that one out. If we believed in Him. Which we don't.

Oh, you know what? We're feeling a little peckish. We're gonna go into our walk-in closet to grab a snack from the fridge. BRB.

Even though I know God knows, I want to know, too. I want to know how to pray specifically. I love that about God. Yes, we can groan before Him and the Holy Spirit will listen to our yearnings and deliver the messages we’ve attempted to express in our heart-broken English to the Father. But He is also a detail God and He loves it when we ask Him for specifics so He can show Himself intimate and personal in His bigness.

Honestly, people, we didn't understand a word of that heartbroken English. Not a word. OK, fine. We did comprehend one word: "groan." We know what that means because it's something we do loudly every week when we visit this Web site.

So the next thing I did was get on the Internet and learn as much as I could learn about this kind of cancer. I want to fight this battle in prayer with my friends. To do that, it helps to know what we’re up against. It would be foolish to go to war without knowing your enemy and having a strategy to win.

That's exactly what we did when our friend was diagnosed! The Internet really is a helpful tool when it comes to something like this. Well, it is if you go to a site like this instead of this.

I not only want to know how to pray but I do want to know what to say. So the next thing I did was call another friend of mine from California who had just left my house the day before. We’ve been friends for over 25 years and yet, due to a God set-up, this trip drew us closer together than ever before. Who knew I would need her again so soon? While she was here we spent some time talking about the personal journey I have been on these past few months. She informed me that I had boarded “The Truth Train.” She’s been on this train many times in her life, most recently when she walked beside her best friend through cancer and to the gates of Heaven.

All right. We're honestly about to board the Barf Train if this continues. Lisa, honey, your plan is backfiring big time. Not only are you shooting blanks at us, but, since you've admitted that you were devastated by your good friend's mom's cancer, you've only talked about how YOU feel. We don't know anything about the cancer, about how your friend is doing, about how your friend's mom is doing, even about WHAT you're doing to help. No, it's all about you you you you you. Take, for example, the above paragraph. How many times is the word "I" used? Six. Six times in seven sentences. That's nearly one time per sentence.

Lisa, we're beginning to think you find cancer as funny as we do.

I asked her what kind of friend she would have wanted to walk beside her as she walked beside her friend. What can I say to bring comfort? When will I know when to simply be quiet and listen? How will I know when to be there for her and how will I know when to just be here for her? I received the following email last night filled with such gentle wisdom that I wanted to share the whole thing with you.

Aw. That's so sweet. Unfortunately the "I"-to-sentence ratio in the above paragraph exceeds the 1:1 statistic established by the previous paragraph. Meaning, we don't believe Lisa when she finally sees fit to use the word "share." Which is why, instead of reprinting Lisa's friend's email here, we're going to share something else with you. We feel it's similar in sentiment, but much briefer. And we do mean it.

The last thing I did was send my current favorite CD and a card to my friend and her mother. This CD, “Sing Over Me,” has been the soundtrack of my life while I’m on the “Truth Train.” It is a collection of gentle, tender reminders of worship. I want to be with my friend and her mother on this journey but the fact is, that will not be possible for the majority of it. I can be there in spirit, I can carry them in my heart, we can meet before the Throne in prayer but, physically, I will be here and they will be there.

Here's the Sing Over Me Web site. If you want, you can send a Sing Over Me e-card to Lisa telling her how much you appreciate when we talk over her. Oh, and in case you're now counting, there were five sentences in the last paragraph and six "I"s. We're gonna stop counting now; you get the picture.

Speaking of getting the frickin' picture, folks, we're now just gonna let the final three paragraphs fly and sum up at the end. Apparently the Truth Train is taking the scenic route through Speaking-in-Tonguesville, and we have to catch the 3pm connection to Get-Us-the-Fuck-Out-of-Here City. We'll see you on the other side...

If I were there I would want to hold them and encourage them and just sit there and be with them in the stillness of not knowing. And yet, even if I could, my touch would be so limited. At best, I can embrace from the outside-in. God can hold us from the inside-out. The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. My prayer is that as these dear ones whom I love so much listen and enter into the atmosphere of worship on this CD that they will experience everything I long to say from the very incarnation of the perfect Word. I share this journal entry with you today knowing that, like my friend’s email said, everyone knows someone who has a story or is living the story where cancer has become a major character in this chapter of their lives. I still don’t know what to say but I will say it anyway. Jesus is the Word of Life who became flesh for us that we might be able to touch Him and receive His touch. We are to become like Jesus in all things. Let’s risk wrapping our hearts in words so that we, perhaps especially in our humanity, may walk beside our friends able to hold hands on our journeys.

So, basically, here's what happened in this week's Coffee Talk entry:

Lisa finds out from a good friend that this friend's mom has cancer. Lisa doesn't know what to say to this friend, so, instead, she does four things:

1.) She prays in a closet.
2.) She Googles "cancer."
3.) She calls a non-cancer-related friend.
4.) She listens to a cd of lullabies.

Got it? Good. Now we're going to play a game...

Say you were shown the above list and told of its circumstances, but you had no idea it concerned the actions of one Lisa Whelchel. Then, say your phone rings and, when you answer it, the voice on the other end says in an extremely menacing tone, "We have taken your beloved kitty hostage. We are going to kill her in the most hideous way possible unless you correctly guess the age of the subject of the list you were just shown."

What would your guess be?

Exactly. It would most definitely not be, "Oh, please don't hurt Chantelle! Please don't hurt Chantelle! That list is clearly talking about a 44-year-old woman!" It would probably be more like,"Oh, please don't hurt Chantelle! Please don't hurt Chantelle! That list is clearly talking about a 4-year-old mentally handicapped girl!"

See, when our friend told us he had cancer, we responded by saying that we're totally there for him and that we'll come visit him in the hospital during his recovery from surgery. And we also asked him if he's really serious about having the Moody Blues' "Your Wildest Dreams" played at his funeral if he dies. Now, we're not saying that that's, like, the ideal way to handle a surprise attack by the cancer ninja. But, in contrast to how Lisa Whelchel dealt with it, at least we asked about HIS funeral and didn't focus on us us us us us. Because, honestly, why worry about what you say or how you feel when you yourself aren't the cancer-ridden one? Just say you'll be supportive, crack a joke and then get on with your cancer-free life. Save the worry for something that matters, like for when someone's holding your cat hostage.

And, no, we're not kidding about our friend having cancer. We'd never joke about something so serious. Sing Over Me sympathy e-cards can be sent to the address in the right-hand column of this site. And if you're thinking you don't have time to send us one, remember that only you can put the "can" in cancer.

We, and our walk-in closet, love you. C U next week.