I sat in a church meeting today and it was announced that we would sing all seven verses of the closing song. "Boy," I thought, "I hope the final speaker doesn't go overtime, and I sure hope the organist plays quickly so we're not singing at dirge speed." While wrestling (or should I say forcing) a child onto my lap I opened the hymnal to Hymn #85, "How Firm a Foundation." Just two beats into the hymn, a flood of past experiences poured over me. I could not believe that I had forgotten how important this particular hymn had been in my survival of Erin's cancer.
Looking back, I think that the two hour drive from our home to Primary Children's Medical Center wasn't so much a burden in travel and gasoline, but it had many blessings attached to it. Our Bishop prayed for us in our home and asked our Father in Heaven to protect our family on the roads during the 7 1/2 months of traveling we did. During my drives I would think of his prayer often and I knew that we would be safe.
On one particular drive I had the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "Then Sings My Soul" CD playing. I drifted off into vacant thought and didn't think much to the words. Then, one word slammed at me like a ton of bricks.
"In every condition - in sickness, in health..."
Sickness? During Erin's cancer, sickness was at the front of my every thought. I wondered if God was trying to tell me something so I started the song over and listened more carefully. The words felt as though they had been written for me.
"...In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea-..."
I had just been home where I had such awful feelings from being a split-up family. It always felt so empty without Erin's spirit in our home. I was going abroad (well 2 hours from my home and down the freeway).
"As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand..."
Ha ha, they had to say it three times because, oh yes, cancer entered our life and then began demanding a lot!
"...so thy succor shall be."
I realized that God was telling me that He loved me. He would succor me, which meant that he would give me help, support, relief, aid and sustenance. He really did all of those things while we were struggling.
The words to this hymn just kept getting more and more real for me, lines stuck out and touched me to the point where I was sobbing my way down Interstate-15.
They say that fear and faith cannot live in the same heart. In the beginning of Erin's cancer I waffled back and forth between a lot of fear and some strong faith. Cancer is scary, especially when it's in your own little innocent child.
"...I am with thee;
oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid."
I was a little dismayed to realize that I felt God so strongly while I was driving.
"I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
A rush of relief fell over me to know that I would be strengthened to help Erin through this very difficult time. Sometimes it was too hard to stand, and I would curl up and cry.
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."
Our Heavenly Father really is there for us. He is the truth and righteousness, the way and the life.
I listened to this hymn for another hour, replaying it over and over until I drove into a parking spot at Primary Children's Medical Center. It became a frequently played song for many of my long drives after that.
Singing it again in church today I felt so many raw and real emotions from those cancer days, but my eyes were opened greatly when the fourth verse came along. The Mo-Tab didn't sing this verse on the CD.
"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee 'oerflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee they deepest distress."
We were dumped into the deep waters of cancer. It was awful, but I felt that this was something that I had chosen to experience back when I lived with my Heavenly Father, before this life. There were turbulent rivers of sorrow along the way of this trial, I felt deeper sorrow than I had ever experienced; Not only our own sorrows, but the sorrows of dear friends around us. My Heavenly Father was with us, and he has greatly blessed us for our troubles, even those that caused us the deepest distress.
Sometimes in the car on my hospital drives, I would sing along with the Mo-Tab and belt out my favorite lines,
"I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"
I felt deeply inside my heart that no matter how hard Erin's cancer was I would never forsake my God. It sounds so simple, we don't forget Him and in return He blesses us beyond measure.
I am grateful that we got to sing all seven verses today (and for our organist who kept the pace up). I am grateful for the tender mercies our Lord sees fit to bless us with, especially the unexpected ones.
(To watch a video of the Mo-Tab singing "How Firm a Foundation" click HERE)