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In the blink of an eye…

“See you later!” A common farewell we’ve all said thousands of times to family and friends. “See you later!” But, have you ever thought as you utter these words, that maybe you won’t? Maybe circumstances or fate will intervene and for one or the other of you there may be a drastic change in your life. We have no guarantee from minute to minute that there will be a later for us as we know it at that moment on this piece of whirling matter we call Earth.

Life can change in the blink of an eye.

This Lenten season is a strong lesson in how quickly circumstances and life can change. The message is being told in churches across the country and around the world, how quickly it changed for Jesus and his followers. On his entry into Jerusalem He is heralded with all of the fervor and devotion accorded a rock-star of today! “He’s here! He’s here! Our King!” Endless devotion was shouted as they welcomed him as the King of the Jews who would change their lives.

Fate blinked and three days later the same crowd clamored for his death and watched in satisfaction as he was crucified.

From adored hero to condemned traitor in three days.

This Lenten period each year is also a particularly poignant one for me for a very personal reason.

In 1982 I was living in Sacramento, California. My son lived in nearby Stockton and we would occasionally visit. He called early on the Saturday before Palm Sunday to say he’d like to come up and stay the weekend, as he wasn’t feeling well. Like moms everywhere, I immediately began to mentally go through my arsenal of home remedies for flu and stomach upsets and to make certain the guest room was ready for him.

My remedies and the guest room went unused. He, instead, laid on the couch and made frequent trips to the bathroom. By that evening I decided a trip to a medical convenient care was necessary. When we arrived, he was quickly seen, and blood work done. The young doctor came to see me in the waiting room and said they felt it would be best if I would take my son to a nearby hospital emergency room, as his white count was extremely high.

We made the drive to San Juan Mercy Hospital, the closest to where I lived, in a pouring rain and with my son still being violently ill. Once at the hospital, the decision was to admit him for observation. I went home alone with my mood matching the weather: heavy and full of foreboding.

The next morning, I returned to the hospital to find that tests were still being done without a diagnosis having been made. Later that afternoon I went home to call my mother in Farmington to let her know what had happened. While we were talking, the operator broke in with an emergency call from the hospital. They were taking my son in for exploratory surgery and I had 10 minutes to get there if I wanted to see him.

I made it.

A friend joined me and the long wait began: one hour, two hours, three hours: the evening drug on into night and still the surgeon did not appear. Finally, they called for me. The weary surgeon assured me my son had come through the surgery fine, they had found two large tumors and removed them but…. they were cancer.

A blink of the eye for the rest of the world: a life-changing moment for my son and I. Our long journey into the world of the cancer patient had begun.

I won’t go into details about those months, but will share that, as a follow-up, that same year in September, while we were still driving every six weeks to Stanford University for his treatments, another eye blink in time occurred and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Over my objections that I didn’t have time for surgery, it seems I did.

The rest of the story is this: today, 35 years later, both my son and I remain cancer-free, thanks to God and skillful doctors, and we’re still going about our daily lives and feeling blessed for each new day.

The moral of this story is this: The next time you tell someone “See you later!” as you part, think about that blink of an eye and how quickly lives can change. You might want to add a footnote blessing to that.

My footnote is this: To each of you I wish a very blessed Easter and a life of thankfulness that has very few “blinks.”

Janet Douglas

Janet Douglas

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