Napoleon once said “The first virtue in a soldier is the endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.” There are many things of which I differ with Napoleon; however, the more I think about this quote, in this, Napoleon was spot on. Right now I am a soldier in an intense fight as my body is undergoing a tremendous assault. The side effects of my chemotherapy include fatigue. Each week, as the cumulative effects of the drug compound, I find that my energy drains a little earlier in the day than the previous week. Now that I am in week fourteen of my treatment, I require an afternoon rest break, something that I haven’t had the time for, or the pleasure of, since my preschool days (unless, of course, you count those few Sunday afternoons that I dozed in front of the TV)! As much as I want to endure the fatigue and carry on, this soldier retreats to the comfort of her sofa each afternoon to allow her body a momentary reprieve from the fatigue that creeps up like a cat stalking its prey and then suddenly pouncing, coming out of nowhere, overpowering its victim, and rendering it lifeless.
As a child, I remember walking through the woods from our house to my grandmother’s several times a day, popping in just to see what she was doing. Every afternoon, I would find my grandmother parked in her plush rocking chair in front of the TV “to allow her eyes to rest.” That was always her line; she was never taking a nap! Her dinner dishes (back then we called the midday meal dinner) were neatly stacked in the kitchen sink, waiting to be washed later in the afternoon. Nothing got in the way of grandmother’s afternoon “eye resting”, not even an eager child with nothing better to do than to pop in unannounced, climb up in the adjacent chair and start chatting away! These days as I find myself forced into my own time of “resting my eyes,” I think of my grandmother’s example of allowing her body to dictate her level of activity. She knew something that I am now learning: there are times when the body needs a pause and it is wise to heed the body’s advice. But I think my grandmother also understood there was more to a daily period of rest than “meets the eye!”
In the midst of my daily rest I am being blessed and my spirit renewed. I have found that lazy, late summer afternoons bring particular joys: the beauty of the sun as it cradles everything in its path with a golden glow that has yet to be captured by Crayola; emerald green humming birds that visit our flower boxes and hover over each tiny blossom; yellow butterflies that flit and flutter in our garden; cardinals and goldfinches that take turns on the feeder as if they had read the entire Emily Post etiquette manual. Nature’s lullabies – tree frogs, cicadas, birds – remind me that all of creation sings of God’s majesty. As I sit in my swing I find much time for prayer and contemplation. For a few hours each day, time slows down and I am drawn into nature’s sanctuary.
Cancer is not a blessing, but through it, I am being blessed and my soul is being renewed. Through the beauty of nature, I see a glimpse of God’s majesty and goodness. What an awesome God we serve!