Yesterday was that day.
The blessings that we have experienced in between those two times have been life changing.
The night of September 5th, minutes after finding out my husband had leukemia, a nurse on the cardiac floor of Mercy stepped into the room finding me sobbing at Steven's side. She shared with me that she knew the shock I was going through, as her husband also had battled cancer.
She told me I would find strength but that the journey was much like that of a roller coaster ride: ups and downs, highs and lows.
She was not lying.
There have been times, much like the first few days after Steven's diagnosis, that I didn't feel like I would be able to dig myself out of the hole I was in. I was low. I was done. I was exhausted, and the fear of the uncertain future left me dreading the dawn of each new day.
During that "low" I remember the encouragement of so many people around us. The friends and family that supported us was unimaginable. I think it was those people that carried me from one day to the next and up out of the hole.
One day, in Mercy Hospital, I was visited by a nun. It had been noted that Steven was Catholic, although he wasn't. Since I was, I often received the Eucharist during his stay and we also had the clergy visit us. The particular visit I remember was the day that the nun gave me a pamphlet on St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She emphasized the fact that I should really read about her and how faithful of a Christian that she was.
I read the pamphlet and I set it aside.
I had never really subscribed to "talking to Saints", and felt that my prayers were better spent going straight to God and speaking directly to Him.
Talking to God was nothing new to me, but honestly, intently listening to Him was.
After arriving the first time in St. Louis, and being kept unexpectantly, I knew God was definitely speaking to me...and I could see very clearly the direction He was pointing me in.
Sometimes too clearly.
Time after time I was made all too aware of many things that I needed to clear up in my life or hurt feelings I needed to let go of, and it became clear that being passive about relationships, or behaviors, was no longer an option for me. Or Him.
I felt God direct my paths and many times felt called to do things that were out of my comfort zone. During this time I found that when I was actually listening to God, instead of doing all the talking, not doing what He asked of me was increasingly difficult. Like a child who wants to please her parents, I wanted to please Him.
However, there have honestly been times that I felt God pushing me to do something that seemed too bold, or too forward, for my nature and I shied away from it. The disappointment that I felt in myself afterwards stung more than any reprimand that God would have given me. It is that disappointment that has had me walking out of that comfort zone lately. Desperately wanting God's favor had me casting my insecurities aside in hopes of an answered prayer for Steven.
I truly felt that, without claiming to know God's plan, I could see His hands at work. I truly felt I was hearing Him....but was He hearing me? Did He really know, and care about, my desire? For Steven to be healed? Many times I would tell God, "I need a sign", and many times, in a clean bone marrow, or blood test, I felt I got it.
But then again, how could I be sure?
Many personal victories have been claimed in the past few months. More bridges have been built, and more love has been shown, than many people see in a lifetime. I think all the blessings frightened me and I wondered if God knew that I wasn't interested in happy endings, just happy beginnings.
I need for this to be a beginning.
While in St. Louis a nurse named Megan came in and opened herself up to us more than any other nurse in the previous weeks. In a time when we felt so alone and far from home, she became a small, welcome light. In the course of conversation with her, and in sharing that I had spent some time at the Basilica, she shared with me that she, too, was Catholic. After the conversation went from talking about our "raising", and her going to Catholic school, she asked me if I had ever heard of St. Therese, and if I had ever called on her to take my prayer request to God.
I had...and I really, hadn't.
I had heard of her. As I had mentioned, the nun in Springfield had told me about her. I read the pamphlet...but, I doubted that anyone in Heaven, aside from God, would care enough about my fears, and the desire of my heart, to listen to my pleas.
But, because of Megan, and her shared story about St. Therese, I remember thinking...."what can it hurt?" In fact, when she mentioned that after praying a novena on two different occasions, asking for St. Therese's intercession, she had received a rose as a sign that St. Therese would take her request to God, and, in essence, petition Him on her behalf.
So, the more I thought about it, and the more I read about her, the more it made sense. I have, in fact, plead for everyone who knows us, or our story, to pray for us. Why wouldn't I ask those in Heaven, and in the presence of God, to do the same?
And so, I prayed. My conversations with God are continual throughout the day, and ongoing. But my prayer to St. Therese was very specific.
Although known for giving roses as a sign that your prayer had been heard and that she would take up your cause, I didn't really expect to receive a rose. I think I did this because if I didn't see one, I didn't want to be discouraged. I did set a time line to be serious in my novena prayer, though.
A novena is a prayer said for nine days. Knowing Steven's transplant was on the 9th, I felt that it was obvious that I needed to be certain to say my extra prayers those first nine days of the month.
Yesterday, while visiting the Basilica once again, it was only after lighting a candle for Steven's benefit, and praying to God that He be merciful and allow Steven a new beginning with the gift of his brother's love, and stem cells, I realized that it was in fact that 9th day of my novena. As I stared at the mosaic image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I wondered if God had heard my prayer, and if St. Therese would join her prayer with mine.
I had been staring at the image for quite a while before everything came into focus for me. My attention had been concentrated on Christ's face and my prayers, and I had failed to see what was right in front of me.
In all my visits to the Basilica, I never remembered seeing a rose. I had seen a dried up miniature rose that someone had placed on the bronze statue of the crucified Jesus held by Mary, but I had never seen a single, live rose, anywhere in the place.
But that day, my ninth day, there was a rose.
With tears streaming down my face, and strengthened faith, I returned to the hospital to share my experience with Steven.
The doctors and nurses had all warned us that the transplant process was very anticlimactic. Essentially a bag full of stem cells, resembling a bag of blood, would be gravity fed into Steven. No pumps were used as the cells would just free flow into Steven's vein.
I had went with Jane to visit Jammie that morning as he completed his portion of the process. Steven wanted to go as well, and support Jammie, as he was supporting him, but the nausea he was experiencing kept him grounded.
I was emotional just seeing the blood leave Jammie's body, knowing that it would be filtered and could potentially save my husband's life. The gratitude and thanks that my heart was trying to contain burst forth and I told Jammie that I just had to give him a kiss.
Earlier that morning, a friend of ours had sent a verse to Steven that he felt was appropriate. Steven read it and couldn't speak afterwards because of the emotion that was filling his throat. It couldn't have been more perfect...and then we all cried. After a period of extended estrangement from each other, and for reasons that now seem insignificant, or can't even be remembered, a more poignant statement couldn't be found to reflect the situation between Jammie and Steven.
Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."
When the transplant took place I am sure that any common bystander might think it looked anticlimactic. Two nurses and one doctor joined Steven, myself, Jammie and Jane as the stem cells started entering Steven's body. The emotion was so thick in the room that I think we were all afraid to breathe. The entire process took less than ten minutes, but the effects of it will last all our lifetimes.
The rose was a sign that I felt I needed to know that St. Therese was hearing my prayers and taking them to God...and I got it. However, hours later, I only need to think about the man sitting next to my husband in the picture below to know that God himself has been hearing them all along.