Learning to Wonder and Love in the Valley of Suck

Our family continues our vigil around the bedside of my wife.  We are in a pattern of picking up and dropping off one another throughout each day.  I take the night shift to be near Heather in what can be difficult transition times for her body.  

Sometimes we talk.  Most of the time she sleeps and rests.  I pick up the computer and write, glancing up regularly to watch her sleep and to see her chest rise and fall with each breath.  These moments are broken up by nurses and nurse aides checking in but also the waves of pain and nausea which pound away on her already weakening body.

Through it all, her spirit stays strong.  I have noted how her eyes light up and sparkle when our son, Logan, and daughter, Jay, come to see her and tell her about their days.  Even though she at times is delirious and cannot connect words, she will force her intellect through the pain and meds and remind me I married way over my head.

I have plenty of time to wonder and sit in awe of this woman who said yes that cold March night on the stage at Wilmore Campmeeting.  I sit in wonder and awe of God who fashioned her together and whose grace was always shaping and working in her.  Again and again, I marvel how she became more like Jesus, and how, in her life, Jesus has been near me and our two kids and to so many others who know her and love her.  

And I wonder at the sad truth of civilization and Christ’s Church which still rushes after greatness by standards contrary to the ways, the wisdom, and the warmth Jesus lived.  We make a continued mess of things by our refusal to follow Jesus through the valley of suck.  We think this is what life is and are ready to build our homes and lives here.  We quit wondering about what more Jesus has in store.  The problem the disciples had is still our problem today...

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you  turn and  become like children, you  will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the  greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, (Matthew 18:1-5)

Heather always said I was the one who kept our family spontaneous but she was the one who always inspired me to wonder.  Her blue eyes were always a touch of the ocean to me and that ocean always kept me on my toes, wondering and loving the life I had been blessed with.  When her time comes to cross the sea to the Undying Lands (Heather’s favorite image from J.R.R. Tokiens, “Lord of the Rings”), I will be left wondering what would have been and will never forget what has been.  

No matter how bad the valley of suck may still get, she has taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus. She gave me the gift of learning to wonder and to love Jesus in everyone I meet, especially in the lives of children, and most especially in my own two children.   Much wonder and love from the valley of suck.


Cynthia Astle said...

Ken, my brother, I don't know how you're finding the strength of mind and peace of spirit to write of these days. I am deeply grateful that you are, because it gives me the opportunity to pray deeply for Heather and all your family, and to "fix my eyes upon Jesus" as my husband and I walk through our own "valley of suck" in losing our home to a flooding disaster. My heart and my prayers continue to go out to you and Heather.

Ken Hagler said...

Know my thoughts and prayers are with you all too Cynthia! Many of us are following and praying for ya'll through the valley of suck. I keep depending on the means of grace and God keeps meeting me here. I think I'm writing as part of prayer. Thank you for the comments and encouragement.

Much love from the valley of suck!

Wendy McLellan said...

Just found your blog. (Through a friend). My husband and I are in that Valley as well. 2 years of colon cancer in 2007/2008. Now he is languishing (2 years now) from bone marrow disease from the chemo. Don't get me wrong! We are grateful for the extra 9 yrs of life that treatment bought us.
What I have found is that God is so very close these days. When I serve my sweet husband, I am serving Jesus. And when I tend to his needs, I am sitting a Jesus feet as he teaches and ministers to me.
Yes,this Valley sucks! How often I have simply wished we could leave it for higher ground! Then I am reminded that indeed it is the valley itself that leads to 'higher ground'. Oh how my human-ness gets in the way of the sacred at times.
Bless you and Heather on this difficult and yet profoundly beautiful journey.

Ken Hagler said...

Hey Wendy! Thank you so much for sharing your story and where the journey has led you. It is a "beautiful tragedy" to be a caregiver. Tragic because of the nature of these diseases that mutate and destroy. Beautiful because when we listen in the silence as we serve another, we do hear God's voice. It is not loud or attention grabbing. God's voice is silent - the whimpers, the stomach gurgling, the furrowed brow, the agitation, it is all God's voice calling us, not be servant-leaders but serve in love the closest neighbor.

Praying for you and your's in the valley of suck today. Lord have mercy.

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