Buford, better known as “Lucky”, was in his mid-60’s when referred to Hospice for terminal cancer. He was an avid outdoorsman and enthusiastically enjoyed teaching young men to hunt. He had a small camper on the edge of Wayne National Forest which served as his base camp. Lucky was an industrial pipe fitter by trade. He was not a man of extensive formal education but he possessed that rare and valuable commodity, “the heart of a student.” He loved reading, studying, reflecting and challenging others. He was a skilled observer and would not be satisfied with other men’s interpretations. To borrow some words from one of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, Lucky wasn’t, “A parrot just sitting on its artificial perch just repeating what it had been taught to say.”
Lucky and I came to refer to his terminal illness as his “journey”. One day I asked, “Lucky, where are you on the road today?” The wheels of his mind turned as he pondered. Finally he replied, “You know, I’ve been thinking about that word acceptance a lot lately. That’s an awfully big word and there are different types of acceptance.”
He pointed to a glass of water sitting on the tray table beside his bed and said, “I could ask you if you would like a glass of water and you could either accept it or reject it but I’m talking about a different type of acceptance. You know, I’ve been thinking that if I tell myself that, it’s not fair, that it’s not supposed to be this way, then I’ll make myself miserable and everyone around me. But if I can accept all these things that are happening to me as just ‘a part of it’ (the cancer), then I can go on and do what I can and need to do. And I’ve found that I have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into.”
Lucky, of course, experienced the normal emotional seasons of anger, frustration and depression that frequently accompany illness and loss. He didn’t deny or suppress his feelings but embraced them too as a “part of it.” Consequently he was able to let go of what used to be and take the road ahead. His personal experiences testify to the wisdom and power of the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Every now and then, when I’m frustrated and telling myself, it’s not fair. it’s not supposed to be this way, the words of my friend and fellow pilgrim find their way back to my mind. And I’m reminded that, I too have to be careful what line of thinking I allow myself to fall into. And, when I remind myself that, “it’s just a part of it.” (life), I too am able to go on and do what I can and need to do.
I’m sure that somewhere along the road you’ll find yourself stuck in the quicksand of grief and loss, self pity, and despair. I hope and pray that during these times, Lucky’s words will find their way back to your heart and mind and that you too will be careful of what line of thinking you allow yourself to fall into. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-356-2525.