I do not know a single person that has gone through life without facing a trial. If we put our trust in God, He is faithful to comfort us through the most unthinkable challenges. Sometimes we don’t immediately realize how He is working for our good.
When my son Alexx went through cancer treatment, he was given the opportunity to attend Camp Goodtimes. It was a program that allowed kids with cancer to have a summer camp experience. Nurses and physicians also attended to provide medical support.
I remember how nervous and excited Alexx was to be going to camp for the first time. It had been almost five months since his last radiation treatment, and despite an occasional loss of balance, he was feeling good.
Although I was excited about his adventure, my moms heart missed him before I even said goodbye. Eight is a very young age to be gone from home for a week. Especially after all he had been through. I reminded him of the stationary with self-addressed stamped envelopes I’d put into his bag. I knew he probably wouldn’t write, and he didn’t.
The week flew by more quickly than I expected. Alexx was all smiles when he saw us on pick up day. His smile sagged a little and his gait had an increased stumble as he ran to me. I returned his smile as I rushed to him for a hug. He smelled of campfire smoke and dirty little boy. I was pretty sure he didn’t shower the entire time he was at camp.
Our own pediatric oncologist also greeted us. He looked wonderfully out of place and at the mercy of the children. While Alexx was off for his final goodbyes, the doctor asked me to bring him in early next week.
The ride home was quiet. Alexx told a few camp stories, but his gaze drifted out the window. I told him how much we missed him, but he just nodded. I tried again and explained how I had really missed him over the week. When he did not respond, I asked if he’d missed us. With true childlike honesty, Alexx said, “No mom, not really.” As we drove down the road, Alexx’s tired gaze went back out the window. He went on, “Axe and Button took care of me. They were like my mom and dad at camp.”
I wasn’t sure how to process my feelings. For months I felt I had been riding the emotional roller coaster called cancer, and now my little boy didn’t miss me. Furthermore, I’d been traded in for counselors with camp names like Axe and Button.
After only a couple of days home, I shared the experience with a friend. I wanted some comfort for my hurt feelings. Instead, she smiled and marveled at how God provided sweet young counselors that made my son feel so safe at camp that it was like having mom and dad. I was thankful for her perspective to help me see how He was working for our good.
Alexx went to the doctor the week after camp. I knew tests would reveal the tumor was growing again, and unfortunately, I was right.
We always knew the prognosis was terminal, but we had not told Alexx. He had understood the tumor was like a bump in his brain, and medical treatments were an effort to make it smaller. With the knowledge the tumor was again growing, he knew we were trusting completely in God for healing.
Every night I prayed with Alexx. He would take a turn, and then I would pray. One night he stopped and asked if I thought God was going to heal him on Earth or in heaven because there was no cancer in heaven. I insisted I wanted him to be healed right here on Earth. After that night we had many discussions of what heaven might be like. Also, Alexx’s prayers changed. He continued to pray for healing, but added, “it’s okay if you heal me here on earth, or if it’s in heaven.”
Alexx’s body continued to deteriorate. His speech was slurred and increasingly difficult to understand. Before one night’s prayers, he tried to tell me of a fear, and I thought he said heaven. I asked if he was afraid to go to heaven. He quickly shook his head no. He slowed his words to speak clearly and explained he was afraid to go to heaven alone.
I wanted to burst into tears and hug cancer out of my child. With a silent prayer hidden in a slow deep breath, I spoke with strength that was not my own. “Do you remember when you went to camp?” He nodded. “Remember when you weren’t afraid because Axe and Button were there? They were like your mom and dad at camp.” Again he nodded and tried to smile at the memory. “Well, going to heaven is like that. Only instead of Axe and Button, it’s even better because Jesus will be there with you.” His eyes lit up, and he heaved a sigh of relief.
My son stepped into eternity only weeks after that conversation. I know he felt safe because I watched him take the hand of Jesus as he left my side. I could not have comforted his fears if God had not perfectly orchestrated the events in his life. God is good like that. He works good in our trials. He is faithful to comfort us if we will put our trust in Him.