My extended family includes a great group of cousins who live just outside of Detroit. Over the years, my aunt and uncle consistently made the effort to bring their four children “back home” for the holidays, weddings and other special occasions. Though I always enjoyed seeing our Michigan family members, I didn’t truly appreciate their devotion to their Chicago area family until I realized just how far they drove each time they came to see us.
When my Michigan cousins heard about my sister Cecele’s battle with cancer, they decided that they needed to do something to support her. My cousin Adrienne called my sister Rita who always opens her home to out-of-town guests. When Rita confirmed that she, her brother and sisters were welcome to stay over, they continued with their plans. Adrienne, Ed, Paulette and Yvette settled on a weekend for this trek. Rita readied their sleeping accommodations. My sister Jo Ann and her husband offered to host the visit since they’re centrally located. The rest of us adjusted our schedules in order to join in the fun. In the mean time, Adrienne explained the Michigan cousins’ intentions in an email to me…
“My thoughts and prayers have been with Cecele. Paulette, Yvette, Ed and I are coming in this weekend for a support visit with Cecele. We’re focusing on her… I do volunteer work for the American Cancer Society. I talk to ladies at the breast clinic who are preparing for surgery. I tell them my story and make sure I interject humor about my wigs and prosthesis and the tattoo covering my scar. I talk about the pain, loss of hair, loss of a breast and not feeling well. The treatments zap you! My point is to give the support they need. Sharing my story uplifts them… I know you sisters, family and friends are surrounding Cecele with all of the love and compassion and prayers you can muster, but I also know how uplifting it will be for us to come in just for her and to let her know how much we care and are sharing this with her. I also know that her treatments are much more intense than mine were because of her diagnosis. I know how they can just wipe you out. I know how discouraging it can be, no matter how hard you try to be positive and strong…”
“I know… I know… I know…” my cousin repeated. Because she, her sisters and brother have been through a similar journey, they do know that Cecele’s path isn’t easy to navigate these days. They think that their trek through last Friday night’s terrible lake-effect snow was the least they could do to help. The truth is that they couldn’t have done more as their effort made all of the difference in the world to my sister. Cecele smiled throughout this visit. She shared things with my cousins that she wasn’t able to put into words just days earlier. This encounter rekindled Cecele’s hope before my eyes. Cecele left that time with my cousins with a renewed resolve to fight this cancer with all of her might. Indeed, the Michigan cousins’ presence to my sister last Saturday afternoon was a more remarkable gift than they’ll ever realize.
I share this story because we sometimes miss the importance of the ordinary opportunities that allow us to help others in extraordinary ways. I suspect that the friends who carried the paralyzed man to meet Jesus in Mark’s gospel (Mark 2:1-12) did the same at times. After all, carrying this poor man to Jesus the Healer was the least they could do. When they arrived to find the house surrounded by a large crowd, these friends might have taken the man back home as there was no chance to get him inside. Still, they persisted. I wonder how long they stood outside developing their plan to bypass the crowd of people who were oblivious to their sick friend’s plight. I wonder which of them was foolhardy enough to think that they could get the man to Jesus through the roof. I wonder what diversion they used to get past the crowd in order to scale the wall to make their way upward. I wonder who found the rope to lower the man into the house. I wonder if the paralyzed man’s smile was as broad as my sister’s when he found himself descending from that hole in the roof.
Though Jesus provided the cure, it was this man’s friends who placed him at Jesus’ feet. Though my sister’s fate rests in the hands of the Almighty, it is the concerned Michigan cousins and others like them, who renew my sister’s faith in our loving God. Doing the same kind of ordinary things for those who need us can also end in extraordinary ways. As was the case for the paralyzed man’s friends, this is the least and the best each of us can do.
©2012 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved