I have a most wonderful father-in-law. Our initial meeting was a rocky one, when my hair was longer and I lived in Ohio leading him to mistakenly think I was a Yankee, which is South Carolina, home of Fort Sumter, is still a live issue. When I asked for the hand of his only daughter during our sophomore year of college, he balked and seemed to need to do due diligence on me with the CIA first. But he came around and has embraced me as if I were another son.
I never understood in-law jokes. Mine are terrific and supportive in the most healthy ways. They’re not perfect, but I always know they are there for us no matter what. I love them both.
Forrest is in his eighties now, and just returned with my wife and mother-in-law from his oncologist, where he got the report on his latest PT scan. He was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer in the summer of 2009, one of the toughest you can have. He has gone through two rounds of chemo and radiation, the first one six months long, which he called, “character building.” It seemed to me more like living death.
Still, he has continued his life. Except for the chemo, he has continued his routines—walking every day, reading, writing an autobiography for all of us in the family about his life, worked back up to play golf again, and continue his life. He is the most incredibly outgoing and friendly man I have ever known. He’s tough as nails in business, but would give you his last dollar if he knew you were in trouble. I can’t tell you how many times they helped us during our long educational journey through student poverty with three children.
So, when this odyssey of the past two years came along, we all fell apart for about five weeks. He is like a giant old oak tree in your yard that’s a couple hundred years old. It’s always going to be there, right? Giving shade, shelter, a place to play when you’re a kid and a place to sit when you’re old. Then one day it changes.
But then, we all calmed down. There was work to do, it wasn’t the end yet. We could learn—and we have—to live one day at a time and treasure it. Between his illness and the birth of my first grandchild, I have moved work back a few spaces on my priorities. I still get it done, but family comes first, where it always should have been.
How can it be that cancer brought us blessings? Healing, reconciling, reprioritizing, re-evaluating? But it did. We remembered the truth, as my old friend John Claypool always said, “Life is a gift.” It is.
So, they came in today. “No trace of cancer. Come back in three months.” We’ll never be completely free. It did this before and came back. But we got a year of high quality, happy life. So, we are rejoicing today, just for today. We’re happy, he’s back to his books and thinking and continuing to grow. We are thankful. We text each other after every report. Withing 30 minutes, my children all had heard and answered with multiple exclamation points.
So the world is in trouble—protesters, Herman Cain has problems, Greece and Europe are a mess. But we just got a good report and can breathe again for now. Biggest news on the planet in our world. We are grateful to God and Dr. Bridges.
Forrest wrote in his autobiography:
One of the humbling, but wonderful things that came from this illness was to see and feel the love and prayers from my family and friends. All of our children and grand children came from far and wide to offer help and support… Of all the magnificent blessings I’ve had in my life, I believe the three Fs are the crux of life. These three are: faith in Christ, a loving family, loving friends, there is nothing of greater value. If you have these in your life, you are wealthy.
A little perspective for me, on this day when markets are uncertain, the political atmosphere is polarized, and the job numbers stink again. We still have each other, and that is the great gift of any family. Not even death can take that from us, for what has already been given can never be taken back.