Parking Lot Prayer
Eight years ago today, I sat on a blue plastic chair, hands clasped in my lap, in a sterile examining room and struggled to process four words no parent ever wants to hear. Words that carried enough power to punch a hole in my world and rip up the foundation.
My son’s doctor, an older man with glasses sliding off his nose and a brown-striped tie, balanced on a tiny round stool. He rested his arms on a laminate desk that extended from the wall and took in a breath, as if the news he was about to deliver demanded specific presentation. He must have given up trying to get the words right though, because his face crumbled and the information just fell out of his mouth.
“Your son has cancer.”
Legs stuck to the chair, I squeezed my fingers tighter and tried to breathe past the lump that snagged in my throat. A black void ate everything in the room and left me dangling over a cliff—no parachute or safety net or hidden escape.
I couldn’t focus or make sense of the words—because I couldn’t believe they were true.
This is not happening. Not to Kyle. Not to me. Not to our family.
Next to me, Kyle sniffed and grabbed for my hand, squeezing so hard my wedding ring cut into my finger. The pain erased the void and life rushed back bringing a ferocious translation of panic that nearly shoved me off my seat.
Pull it together. You can fall apart more completely later—when Kyle’s not watching your every reaction.
Kyle swiveled on his chair so that his knees bumped mine. “Am I going to die?”
More words a parent never wants to hear. What do you do when your ten-year-old son, your baby, asks you that?
No parenting book or seminar or online tip can prepare you for that. Neither can your faith, because in that moment you aren’t coherent enough to remember you have any.
Thankfully, that doesn’t matter to God. He is I AM. He is Alpha and Omega. He is Elohim. And He was there with us in that tiny white room the moment our lives stopped.
After I’d used an entire box of tissue, Kyle and I headed to the parking lot with instructions to go to UW Hospital, they were waiting to admit him. The oncologist on call had already been alerted.
I slid open the van door, helped Kyle get comfortable on the gray leather seat, and buckled him in. Then I wrapped my arms around his tiny shoulders and cried some more.
“Mom,” he whispered in my ear, “pray before we go.” He squeezed me tighter. “Maybe God will know what to do.”
Maybe God will know what to do. In his just-turned-double-digits wisdom, Kyle reached out to Him, when I could not.
I leaned back, took both of Kyle’s small hands in mine, and closed my eyes. “God, we’re standing…” My voice shook harder than my arms and my legs combined.
Deep breathe, Lori, you can do this. Don’t ruin Kyle’s faith with your own fear.
Heart pounding over the noise of cars pulling in and out of the parking, I focused on a picture that was just now forming in my mind. “Jesus, we’re standing here in front of a big, dark, scary tunnel.”
My knees gave and I slumped on the runner by the seat. “I know You’re here. You knew we were coming and you’re waiting…with a flashlight. To help us find our way through.”
The tears muted a few of the words. “Thank you for knowing exactly when we’d get here and for not making us do this alone. Amen.”
How we lived our lives the next four years launched off that parking lot prayer.
God did not hand us an overnight miracle. He didn’t spare Kyle from side effects, fear, or excruciating back and muscle pain. We lived every treatment, every emergency room visit, every re-admittance, every ugliness that rides the coattails of cancer all the way to the end.
But He walked with us each second of the way. Whether we felt Him there or not. When I gave up, He held me closer. When I wrote off Kyle ever having a future, He sprinkled hope. When I let weariness crush me, He cushioned my fall and gave us moments of rest and peace.
This weekend, two days before the anniversary of Kyle’s diagnosis, I stood next to him in church. All six feet of healthy him. He’s home visiting from college where he got accepted into the nursing program so he can give back to God and be a light for all the kids that will come after him on the devastating road of cancer.
Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come over the last eight years? What a difference time can make. Kyle went from a sixty-six pound little boy who’s future hid in the shadows to a six-foot almost-man that has given his life to the God who stuck by him.
That’s my miracle.
Do you have a miracle to share?