Ian stared up at the ceiling from the bed at the naturopathic treatment center, unable to move any part of his body below the neck. For most of the 10 days we spent there, he was getting intravenous high dose Vitamin C and a host of last-chance protocols commonly used in European countries to fight cancer. During this time, Ian’s mind was relatively strong. Except for the last few days his life, he was aware of his rapid decline.
I often wondered what was going through his mind.
This was new for me. I had always known exactly what was going on his mind — Ian could talk and he loved to share! He easily filled up an entire 30-minute drive home from school with colorful stories of the day’s adventures. Things didn’t change much when he started his new job straight out of college. I knew about the potential clients, the presentations, the contracts that closed and the ones that did not. He texted me often and kept me posted on just about everything.
But, here I am, 22 months since our beloved son’s passing to Heaven, and I’m left still wondering what was he thinking in his final days on earth? Was he devastated? Was he still hopeful? Did he ever resign to his soon departure? If he did, he never shared that with me. He chose not to talk about the end.
One thing I know is that through his entire 8-month battle with cancer, he never uttered one word of victimized complaint to me. I never heard him ask, “Why me?”
How is that possible? How does a young man in his prime go through such an ordeal without becoming bitter? I believe that Ian was given a gift from God that served him well throughout his life, especially during his battle. It’s a character trait that I can best describe as being “at peace.”
There’s a well-known story about Ian waiting to be picked up at the driveway of his elementary school for three long hours! It was a mix-up during the first week at his new school on an early release day. He was in the 3rd grade and school got out at noon. Ian forgot to report to after-school care and instead headed to the driveway to wait for Dad to pick him up. He waited, and waited, and waited, until he was the last student there. Alone with his thoughts, Ian would later describe passing the time lying down on the bleachers looking up at the sky, watching the clouds go by. Once Dad arrived at the usual 3 p.m. pick up time, Ian admitted that it had seemed like a long wait, and he had wondered why dad was so late on that afternoon.
But, there was no anger. There was no fear. There was patience. There was peace.
Several weeks before his passing, Ian arrived at the treatment center in a wheelchair. Despite the best efforts of the doctors and Ian’s enduring hope, this was the time when paralysis took over. We surrounded him with love and worked to make him as comfortable as possible. This was getting more and more difficult with each passing day due to the severe pain in his neck. Lei and I must have adjusted his pillow a hundred times a day.
There he was stuck in that bed. Stuck in his 23-year-old body.
Yet, with the exception of a few late-night spells of phantom sensations and confusion, Ian somehow seemed to be at peace … gracefully relinquishing control over his body. One day, as he stared at the ceiling while getting a mega intravenous dose of Vitamin C, I overheard him ask Lei to look up at the ceiling with him. He had spotted the shape of an elephant in the pattern of the ceiling above him. He wanted to know if she could see it, too. She could.
Somehow, at that unspeakably difficult moment, Ian allowed himself to get lost in the patterns of the ceiling — just as he had lost himself in the clouds all those years ago.
There was no anger.
There appeared to be no fear.
There was patience.
There was peace.
May we all find ways to be lost in the clouds in the sky and find comforting patterns in the ceilings above us.
May we live and may we die in the calm of our God-given inner peace.