Coming back from a fishing trip in Ireland, we flew over the Twin Towers on 9/9/01. Two days later, the magnificent towers ceased to exist. Two weeks after that, my husband was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. That month both the larger world and our smaller, private world changed. The war in Afghanistan began. Our national soul struggled with the cancer of evil; our family soul struggled with the reality of disease.
Time passed. My husband had his kidney removed. The nation learned to live with the undercurrent of insecurity and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. We learned to live day to day, praying for our nation and praying for his health. But by 2003, the war had spread to Iraq and the cancer had spread to his liver, adrenal glands and colon. We had our battles ahead of us on all levels.
In a horrific and selfish way, the spread of the war to Iraq in 2003 benefited me. Because of the war, my daughter, Amy, and her two children were evacuated from Incirlik Air Force base in Turkey where her husband was stationed. They came to stay with us. She was my support, my anchor. The children, innocent and unaware, were my diversion. That was, indeed, a blessing from God.
The wars raged on in Afghanistan and Iraq while the poisonous chemicals of immunotherapy were the battle weapons against cancer. We followed news from the battlegrounds overseas while at home we struggled with an increasingly ill husband, father, grandfather. He appeared to be melting out of our lives as pounds fell from his frame.
After three months, the immunotherapy was completed and conditions in Turkey had stabilized. Amy and her children were permitted to return. The evening before their departure the children, Jared age six and Anna age two, pretended to be angels. I made halos of paper plates and wings of tissue paper for them and they went outside to play. Soon they were using butterfly nets to catch frogs in our pond. Little angels catching frogs. I stood alone at the kitchen window watching them, knowing they were leaving in the morning and I felt my heart fill with unshed tears. I refused to cry because once I started, I would be unable to stop. A river of grief would flow from me for my husband, my family, my nation.
Shortly after my daughter and grandchildren flew back to Turkey, my husband had a CT scan to evaluate the efficacy of the immunotherapy. We prayed for a mission accomplished moment.
But that particular prayer was not answered. The tumors had increased in size by fifty percent. The tumors previously deemed too large for surgery were now even bigger. Surgery now was the only option and presented an even bigger risk than before.
We drove home from that appointment in black silence. Every bump in the road caused him pain; I drove gingerly, trying to avoid potholes and sudden stops.
Then, for no apparent reason, I asked him if he minded if I stopped at Plumline Nursery.
Why did I want to stop at Plumline Nursery? I had no idea. I certainly wasn’t going to buy plants. No logical reason, no practical purpose but I felt compelled to stop there. I had to go there.
He said he didn’t care but he would wait in the car. He made no eye contact; his voice was flat.
There were no other customers there; the parking lot was empty. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw a statue, about two feet high, of a boy angel standing and looking down at a frog at his feet.
“How much?” I asked the nursery employee. I gasped when she told me the price.
“We have others,” she said and walked away. She returned with another angel. This one was a girl angel, crouching down. The employee set it down beside the boy angel in such a way that the girl angel was gazing at the frog. The angels were Anna and Jared, immortal and forever young.
I had to buy them. God had directed me to this place at that time. He answered my prayers in a way that fortified my faith.
My husband is now well; surgery was successful. My daughter and her family are back living in the states.
The wars go on. I bow my head, clasp my hands.
The angels live in my heart and my garden. May it be forever so.