Something else happened on retreat, too.
Saturday evening they gathered us in the conference room before our "Reconciliation Service" in the chapel. We were asked to each stand up and say a prayer intention for the others to pray for. They went around the room, and when it was finally my turn I forced myself to stand up.
"My dad....." I began, and immediately started trembling.
Omg! I thought- why is this so hard to say? Just say it!
"My dad was just diagnosed with lung cancer a month ago". I said, as fast as I could. And then I collapsed back into my chair and looked down as tears ran down my face. When I looked up, everyone was staring at me. The next person even waited a few moments before she stood up with her intention.
We filed into the chapel for our Reconciliation service (which, by the way, was very powerful service). I sat between two of the women. When the service ended, the directors encouraged us to exchange a sign of peace. Immediately, I had people surrounding me and hugging me. One woman even said "come here little girl" and wrapped me in the tightest hug I've ever felt.
These strangers, whom I barely spoke to all weekend, lifted me up in prayer and comforted me. Some gave me their email addresses and asked me to update them on my dad's condition. Others simply said "I've been there". It was incredible.
It was also the first time I had spoken the words "my dad has cancer" out loud in a long time. In the first few weeks of his diagnosis, I was saying it so often I thought I should get it tattooed on my head. But now, most people around me know, and it's rare I encounter a stranger who needs to know this information. To say it, though, makes it real again. Opens back up that fear. And that's okay. That's normal. Even if it sucks to say it, even if I cry while saying it, I can say it and know that people will be understanding and empathetic.
I cried again when that woman called me "little girl". Because even though I don't stay up all night, every night crying anymore, and the nightmares have gone away, there are moments when I still feel totally terrified, and, like a little girl, just want to crawl into someone's lap and cry. And I know that it's okay to feel that way. I, and the rest of my family, need to be patient. Feelings will come when they want to, we cannot control that. Just let it happen.
When my dad was first diagnosed and in the hospital, my phone was constantly ringing and dinging- emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, tweets. People were responding to my updates or wanting an update or sending me an uplifting quote or asking what we needed. That has settled. People ask me when they see me in person - "Hey, how's your dad?" or they will end an email with "by the way, how's your dad?". And to be honest, I never know how to answer that question. I love that they ask because it means they care, but I also hate it because I don't know what to say. He's fighting, a little tired, but he's in great spirits. That's my typical response. And people say "GREAT!" and walk away. But it's not always going to be great. This is still the very start of a very, very long journey.
To sum it all up:
My dad has cancer.
Myself, my mom, my siblings- we all have moments where it's still very tough for us, where we're scared. And that's acceptable.
My dad is feeling okay today. I don't know about next week or next month, but we'll get there when we get there. Today he's okay, thank you for asking. It really does mean a lot that you ask.